Arusha, 28 August 2009 (FH) - The  1994 massacre at the Nyange Church , for which Father Athanase Seromba was sentenced to life in prison, will be at the center of the trial of the businessman Gaspard Kanyarukiga, which opens on Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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More than a thousand Tutsis who had sought refuge in Nyange Church perished in April 1994 in western Rwanda after a bulldozer was ordered to destroy the building.

Then businessman, Kanyarukiga, the second to answer for the massacres before the ICTR, conducted his business activities in Kigali and in his native commune, Kivumu, where the catholic parish of Nyange was located. 

For his alleged role in this massacre and other crimes committed in this commune, Kanyarukiga is being prosecuted for conspiracy to commit genocide, complicity in genocide and extermination, according to the indictment signed on 5 December 2001 by the former ICTR prosecutor, Carla Del Ponte.

It is alleged that he acted in partnership not only with Father Seromba, then the vicar of the parish, but also with the then mayor of Kivumu, Grégoire Ndahimana, and the judicial police inspector, Fulgence Kayishema.

Arrested more than two weeks ago in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ndahimana is awaited at the ICTR detention centre in Arusha, Tanzania, whereas Kayishema is still at large.

"Gaspard Kanyarukiga, Athanase Seromba, Grégoire Ndahimana, Fulgence Kayishema and other people unknown to the prosecutor, developed and carried out an extermination plan of Tutsis in the Kivumu commune", alleges the indictment.

According to the prosecutor, the driver of the bulldozer had initially refused to demolish the church but finally complied when they explained to him that the Hutus were strong enough to build another one.

"The work of demolition then started and the roof of the church collapsed, killing more than 2,000 Tutsi refugees who had gathered there. The survivors were attacked by Interahamwe (militiamen) who made it a point of finishing them", added the prosecutor.

After the destruction of the church, Kanyarukiga and Father Seromba found Kayishema, Ndahimana and the driver of the bulldozer rejoiced by drinking beers, adds the indictment.

Arrested in South Africa on 16 July 2004 and transferred to Arusha three days later, Kanyarukiga is part of the five ICTR prisoners awaiting their trial.


© Hirondelle News Agency