THE sentence of life imprisonment for Theoneste Bagasora imposed by the UN International Criminal Court on Rwanda yesterday brought to an end a long process of justice that began in 1976 when Bagasora was arrested in Cameroon and continued when his trial for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity began in 2004. Bagasora, a Hutu, was primarily responsible for the deaths of some 800'000 Tutsi people in 100 days in 1994; after the death of the president of Rwanda in an aeroplane crash Bagasora took control of the Rwandan armed forces and oversaw the genocide he had been planning for several years. Among the victims were many moderate Hutu people.
These events had been preceded since 1990 by a civil war in the region involving several Francophone countries; their aftermath is still being felt in the Congo today. The massacre masterminded by Bagasora is still difficult to comprehend but more than 240 witnesses gave evidence to the International Criminal Court about what happened. The Rwandan genocide has produced many books and documentary and feature films: among the latter is Hotel Rwanda about a Hutu hotel keeper who kept his genocidal fellow countrymen at bay; one of the most moving books is Philip Gourevitch's We Wish To Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed With Our Families. A central figure was the Canadian commander of the UN peacekeeping force, Romeo Dallaire, whose limited mandate left him incapable of preventing the killing.