Kigali, 18 March 2009 (FH) - The semi-traditional gacaca courts last week was dominated  by the judgments of the former deputy Elisee Bisengimana, a human rights activist, François-Xavier Byuma and of the former militia leader Setiba, known as "colonel".

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Rendered in different cases, these judgments were main stories of the Rwandan newspapers, because of the notoriety of the three people.

On Friday afternoon, Bisengimana, a former deputy of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF, currently in power), who was tried in revision, received 19 years in prison without the possibility of parole after being found guilty of genocide and crimes against humanity by the gacaca appeal court of Huye (southern Rwanda) on location in Rusizi (south-western Rwanda), the native locality of the accused and the theatre of the acts targeted by the indictment.

The judgement confirmed participation of the former deputy in preparation meetings of the genocide, in particular at the school complex of Gihundwe where he was teaching in 1994.

He was tried with a score of co-defendants, including a senior executive of the National Commission for Unity and Reconciliation, Gabriel Murwanashyaka, who received 30 years in prison.

After the genocide, Bisengimana occupied the post of Governor of Cyangugu, his native prefecture, before his entry into the Chamber of Deputies in 1999. At the time of the legislative elections in September 2008, he was not part of the list of RPF candidates; because, undoubtedly, of the serious charges that he faced.

As he was still a deputy, he had been prosecuted for genocide and had been acquitted. But following the recourse of many victims who affirmed that he had suborned judges and witnesses, he was re-tried.

Differently from Bisengimana, François-Xavier Byuma is not very well-known on the Rwandan political scene, even if his name is more familiar in the other settings. A very popular dramatic author but also a long time human rights activist, Byuma was sentenced Saturday, in Kigali, to 17 years in prison, at the end of a retrial. He had already received a 19-year sentence in a first trial. On Saturday, the new verdict was delivered in his native Biryogo, a district of Kigali, by a gacaca court of Rwamagana (East Province) which had traveled to the capital.

Once again, he was found guilty of the "attempted murder of Louise Batamuliza, complicity in the murder of Raymond Kabayiza, erection of road blocks and criminal conspiracy".

After his first trial, several national and international human rights organizations had taken to his defence, affirming that Byuma was a victim of a disagreement with one of his judges, Sudi Imanzi.

The other important judgement of the week was that of "Colonel Setiba", sentenced Sunday to life imprisonment by the appellate court of Mageragere, also in Kigali.

Setiba was not part of the army, even if he always wore during the genocide the attire of a senior officer and always wanted to be accompanied by an escort. This former militia leader, 65 years old and whose name still inspires terror, was, in 1994, "in charge of discipline" of the Interahamwe in Kigali.

The jury retained against him the crimes of "planning and organization of the genocide, incitement to commit genocide, execution and supervision of the genocide in the former commune of Butamwa (suburbs of Kigali), establishment of lists of Tutsis to be killed in Butamwa, illegal detention and distribution of firearms".

According to the debates in this case, "colonel Setiba" was especially the man of the famous road block of Giticyinyoni, at the entry of the Rwandan capital.

"Setiba and his militiamen intercepted and killed there all Tutsis but also soldiers transporting Tutsis in their vehicles to try to evacuate them", pointed witness Célestin Murangwa. SRE/ER/MM/SC/GF

© Hirondelle News Agency