Butare trial: longest and slowest

06 July 2011 by Thijs Bouwknegt

“We cannot follow the proceedings at the Rwanda tribunal in Butare.” Lambert has no money to travel to Tanzania to witness the trial against alleged genocide suspects from 1994. The Rwandan would have loved to see the delivery of judgement against Arsène Shalom Ntahobali. He saw him at the university, seventeen years ago. “I would not recognise his face anymore,” he says. “But many people remember his crimes.” 

Ntahobali was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 1994. When the massacres started in the southern university town of Butare, Ntahobali changed his mathematics books for a machete. He set up a roadblock near his house where he led a group of Interahamwe militia, ordering them to rape and chop to Tutsis to death.

Now he is wearing a suit, a blue shirt and a tie. He looks over his left shoulder in the direction of his mother, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko. The 65-year old woman was also sentenced to life imprisonment. She is the first woman to be convicted of genocide at an international court. The former minister of Family and Women’s Affairs had ordered the Hutu militiamen to rape and kill Tutsis. She reportedly even dealt out condoms.

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