With just days to go before the trial of Claude Muhayimana by the Assiz Court in France, some residents of Karongi district, western Rwanda, where Muhayimana is suspected of committing crimes, say the trial will bring relief to many people, especially the victims of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994.
27 years after the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Claude Muhayimana will become the fourth Rwandan to be tried on 47 arrest warrants issued by the Rwandan prosecution against Rwandans suspected of genocide fleeing in France. He is being prosecuted for complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity.
The case is expected to be heard by the Assiz Court in France from November 22 to December 17, 2021. Survivors of the genocide against the Tutsi in Karongi hope that this case will help them to know more about the truth in what happened in Kibuye town (now Karongi) and in the surrounding areas (Home Saint Jean, Gatwaro Stadium, Nyamishaba, Kibuye Catholic Church and elsewhere).
Nyirasafari Generoza, a 56-year-old widow of the Genocide, who lives in Karongi town, says many of her family members were killed at Gatwaro Stadium. She did not know Claude Muhayimana, although she did hear that it was said that he was the driver of Kayishema Clement who was the prefect of Kibuye.
“It is heartbreaking to hear that people who killed your loved ones, or who plotted in their death is free, but when you know they are punished, you feel relieved. So the fact that Muhayimana is going to be held accountable for what he has done for us, will keep many of us alive”, said Nyirasafari.
For Semana Thomas, a genocide survivor at Kibuye Church, he said that although the perpetrators were not punished, they would at least be brought to justice. “Even if Muhayimana is innocent but at least one feels that he has been tried, even if one does not accept the court’s decision”, he said.
When it comes to the issue of genocide suspects on run abroad, some of the victims complain that their cases are delayed.
Karyango Assouman met in the city of Karongi declared: “Late justice is no longer justice, but a burden for the victim!” He added that if the perpetrators are punished late, after the death of the victims, it is of no use to them because they will have already taken their load in the grave. Therefore, he calls for efforts to try all other suspects of the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994 who are at large.
One of the survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Nyamishaba, who did not wish to be named, said: “the victim could grow old or die without justice even though he had testified against the author. If the latter is arrested and tried after the victim’s death, the evidence would no longer be as strong as it was when the victim was still alive.”
Muhayimana’s judgment has been twice adjourned due to the covid-19 outbreak and measures to prevent it. Which, also, worries those who accuse him of direct or indirect implication in the death of their close relations and in the destruction of their property. They fear that end of day, his case will not happen. “We will be reassured afterwards”, concluded Assouman.
Muhayimana’s case will go to trial in France three years after that of Tito Barahira and Octavien Ngenzi, former mayors of the former commune of Kabarondo, in the eastern province, who were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2018. It will also take place five years after France tried Captain Simbikangwa Pascal, one of the bodyguards of the late President Habyarimana.
Capt Simbikangwa became the first Rwandan to be tried by the Assize Court in France, which found him guilty of complicity in the genocide, and sentenced him to 25 years in prison on December 3, 2016. Simbikangwa was tried 20 years after the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda was carried out.
Claude Muhayimana was born in 1961 in Kibuye and was granted French citizenship in 2010. He lives in Rouen (Seine-Maritime), France.