Arusha, June 11, 2012 (FH) – As the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is winding up its first instance trials, Ildephonse Nizeyimana is going to be the last former military officer to be tried by the UN-backed Tribunal.

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A Trial Chamber presided by Kenyan Judge Lee Muthoga is set on June 19, 2012 to deliver its judgment in Nizeyimana's case. Holding the rank of Captain in the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) in 1994, he  is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity (extermination, murder and rape) and war crimes (murder and rape).

Two other ex-members of the Rwandan army, indicted by the ICTR, are still on the run. Former Commander of the Presidential Guard, Major Protais Mpiranya and Pheneas Munyarugarama, a Lieutenant Colonel, served as Commander of Gako Camp in Kanzenze Commune, Kigali Rural prefecture.

However, if the two fugitives were to be arrested, their respective cases could be heard by either the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals or national jurisdiction, particularly Rwanda. The Mechanism is due to take over essential functions of ICTR and that of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) upon their closures.

Education backgrounds

Nizeyimana was born on October 5, 1963 in Mutura Commune, Gisenyi prefecture in Northwest Rwanda from Athanase Masiha, his father and Madeleine Mashavu, his mother.

After completing primary school, he studied first at Inyemeramihigo College in Gisenyi and then at the Musanze School of Sciences in Ruhengeri, also in North Rwanda. Some of his college mates describe him as a hard worker but also bright in all subjects.

His former schoolmates allege that even while at secondary school Nizeyimana manifested regionalism and ethnic discrimination and allegedly looked down on the only Tutsi student in their class.

They say he finished top of their year in July 1983. The same year he went to the Senior Military Academy (ESM) in Kigali where he was part of its 24th intake. It is said that the ESM was a prestigious school at the time and some people used to say that those who went there were bound to be rich. 

Before completing his studies at ESM, Nizeyimana obtained a scholarship to study in Germany and on his return, he went directly to work at the Non-Commissioned Officers School (ESO) in Butare town, Southern Rwanda.

While at ESO, it is alleged that Nizeyimana had a reputation for political extremism, arrogance, strong favouritism towards people from northern Rwanda with marked bias against Tutsis.

It is further alleged that Nizeyimana was a high ranking officer at ESO, holding a second in command position at the military academy, being in charge of intelligence and military operations. The prosecution has indicted him for, among others, ordering the murder of Rosalie Gicanda, the last Tutsi queen of Rwanda.

Events after 1994 genocide

 He fled Rwanda in July 1994 to the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Between July 1994 and November 1996, Nizeyimana lived in Kashusha refugee camp in South Kivu.

After the camp was dismantled in 1996, he and other ex-Rwandan military figures formed an Army for the Liberation of Rwanda (ALIR) and later changed the group’s name into Democratic Forces for Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), where he allegedly held a rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

After experiencing difficult life, Nizeyimana left for the eastern town of Goma, where he reportedly ran a small business of a local brew bar. But later he decide to leave for Nairobi, Kenya, via Uganda but on his way, without knowing the Interpol were tracking him, he was arrested in a hotel in Uganda on October 5, 2009.

He was transferred to the UN Detention facility in Arusha, Tanzania the following day, where he met his colleagues, including his namesake, Lieutenant Ildephonse Hategekimana, the former in charge of the small military camp of Ngoma, in Butare, popularly known as scholar’s town. Hategekimana is currently serving life imprisonment sentence for his role in the 1994 Tutsi genocide.

 Late American historian Alison des Forges writes in her book Leave None to Tell the Story, published in 1999 that “at the start of massacres, the Ngoma camp, the ESO divided responsibility for the area around the town of Butare, with leadership in the hands of Nizeyimana and Hategekimana.”

The book quotes one witness as saying that Nizeyimana played more of a role in the first days by allegedly committing massacres, with the ESO soldiers in the central part of the town. He then ceded to Hategekimana, who together with his troops allegedly executed killings in the southern part of the region. 

However, it is reported that some of his former colleagues describe Nizeyimana that he was afraid of war. They say that during the 1990-94 war, he often pretended to be suffering from heart problems which were regarded as a pretext for avoiding going to the front.