Arusha, October 29, 2009 (FH) - A Gacaca court in the Southern prefecture of Butare sentenced on Thursday famous Rwandan actor and playwright Dismas Mukeshabatware to nineteen years in prison for his role in the 1994 genocide.

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Mukeshabatware, who had been standing trial in Ngoma since October 14, was arrested after his conviction, the Rwandan Information Agency (ARI) announced.

The Gacaca courts, adapted from a form of Rwandan traditional justice, are tasked with trying suspected perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide which left some 800,000  people dead, according to the UN.   These village courts, whose judges are elected from the community, can hand down sentences up to life imprisonment, which is now the maximum penalty in Rwanda. They have so far tried more than a million people.

According to Radio Rwanda, the artist was charged for his role as an instigator of massacres against Tutsis in Ngoma sector.

Mukeshabatware came to Ngoma in April 1994 from Kigali where he lived at the time. He was then a member of the well-known theatre company Indamutsa which was part of Radio Rwanda. He continued to work for the national radio after the genocide.

Mukeshabatware gained a reputation for his sense of humour, his versatile talent of impersonation and his command of the subtleties of the Rwandan language. He hails from the former prefecture of Gikongoro, neighbouring the prefecture of Butare.


© Hirondelle News Agency