Niger disowns nine Rwandan genocide convicts after Kigali protests UN deal

Monday January 03 2022
Protest at an ICTR Kigali office in 2013, over the acquittal of former ministers Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza.

Protest at an ICTR Kigali office in 2013, over the acquittal of former ministers Justin Mugenzi and Prosper Mugiraneza. PHOTO | FILE

By Johnson Kanamugire

Niger has disowned Rwandan genocide convicts, denying them a resettlement offer following intervention by Kigali.

The resettlement to Niger of the group of Rwandans, either released or acquitted for genocide and related crimes but were stranded in Arusha for more than 17 years, hit a snag after the host country made a U-turn following Rwanda’s protest over the resettlement.

At least nine Rwandans, who include former Rwandan regime high ranking military and government officials until 1994, were consigned to residing in a safe house in Arusha, Tanzania, under the care of the mechanism while attempts to return them to their country of citizenship or relocation to a third country yielded no results.


However, despite Niger accepting to take eight of them in recently and subsequent transfer to the country under agreement with the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals this month, it made a U-turn and expelled them with a seven-day ultimatum to leave the country for reasons its officials said are diplomatic.

“We also saw it in the media, we were not involved or notified. It is entirely between Niger and the residual mechanism. So we don’t know exactly what went wrong; what they had agreed and what next,” Providence Umurungi, Head of International Justice and Judicial Cooperation Department at Rwanda Ministry of Justice told The EastAfrican.


Ms Umurungi referred The EastAfrican to the office of the government spokesperson (OGS) for government position on the matter.

Yolande Makolo, Rwanda spokesperson, said that they were not aware of the agreement made between the UN-MICT and Niger on this transfer.

“Rwanda’s position has always been that all Rwandans, including those acquitted or released by the ICTR, are welcome to return to the country,” Ms Makolo told The EastAfrican.

But the country’s ambassador to the United Nations Valentine Rugwabiza recently protested the move in a session of the Security Council held on December 13.

Ms Rugwabiza said Rwanda was surprised to not have been notified by either the Mechanism or Niger about the transfer of these nationals, and expected clarification from the Principals of the Mechanism.

“We hope Niger will exercise its responsibility to ensure that none of the nine persons use their territory for subversive activities that have contributed to the insecurity and instability of the Great Lakes Region for the past decades. There is available evidence, in their criminal records, that some of them have been engaging in such activities even after their acquittal by the former ICTR,” she said.

The concerned individuals, who occupied high ranking government and military positions in the regime that oversaw the genocide committed against the Tutsi in 1994, were either acquitted or were convicted and released after serving their sentences.

Legal limbo

The ex-convicts include former military intelligence chief Anatole Nsengiyumva, Innocent Sagahutu and Tharcisse Muvunyi who were army officers, alongside former commanding officer of the military Police and later Prefect of Butare Alphonse Nteziryayo.

Besides, former Civil Service, and Transport Minister Prosper Mugiraneza and Andre Ntagerura respectively were acquitted by the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda alongside Francois Xavier Nzuwonemeye, former military commander and Protais Zigiranyirazo, former businessman and politician.

Despite being free from any residual proceedings for over a decade, they stayed in Arusha as efforts by the Mechanism finding a durable solution for the relocation did not yield any result. The Mechanism indicates they were unable or afraid to return to their country of citizenship. Details of the agreement the Mechanism signed with Niger remain scanty to date.

According to the UN’s International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, their stay in Arusha presents a legal limbo in view of agreement with Tanzania that provides that the released and acquitted persons are not to remain permanently in the country except with that country’s consent.

Tanzania is understood to have allowed the group to stay on its territory temporarily, pending their relocation.