By John Ikani
A former Rwandan army Colonel who was accused of masterminding the slaughter of 800,000 people during the 1994 genocide, has died in prison in Mali, Malian officials said on Saturday.
Théoneste Bagosora, 80, was a senior figure in Rwanda’s Ministry of Defence at the time of the killings.
A UN-backed criminal tribunal sentenced him to life in prison, but this was later reduced to 35 years.
“It is confirmed. He was over 80 years old, he was seriously ill, with heart troubles. He was hospitalised several times and had three surgeries. He died today in a clinic,” a source in Mali’s prison administration who sought anonymity told Reuters.
A second source at Bamako’s Court of Appeal confirmed the death.
Also confirming Bagosora’s death, his son Achille told the BBC that he died at a hospital in Bamako, where he was being treated for heart issues.
Around 800,000 people – mostly from the Tutsi ethnic group – were killed in 100 days during the genocide.
The massacres began after a plane carrying Rwanda’s then-President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down on 6 April 1994, killing everyone on board.
Bagosora was arrested two years later in Cameroon, where he had fled to after Paul Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front seized power.
Prosecutors accused Bagosora, then Cabinet Director in the Defence Ministry, of taking control of military and political affairs in the central African country after President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down in 1994.
The Tanzania-based tribunal accused Bagosora of being in charge of the troops and Interahamwe Hutu militia who killed some 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days.
Canadian General Romeo Dallaire, head of United Nations peacekeepers during the genocide, described Bagosora as the “kingpin” behind the killings and said the former colonel had threatened to kill him.