Niamey – Niger has ordered the expulsion of eight Rwandans linked to the east African country’s 1994 genocide, just a month after they were welcomed in the capital Niamey, according to a ministerial order seen by AFP on Wednesday.
The move was welcomed by a Rwandan advocacy group for genocide survivors which said it should send a message to all those involved in the massacres that they would face justice.
Niger’s order was published after a report on the expulsions by the Jeune Afrique news magazine said that Niger’s government made the U-turn after Rwanda expressed its displeasure about their arrival in Niamey.
“The people whose names follow are definitively expelled from the territory of Niger with a permanent residence ban for diplomatic reasons,” said the order, which was signed by Niger’s Interior Minister Hamadou Amadou Souley.
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Of the eight people listed, four were convicted of crimes during the genocide by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR): former prefect Alphonse Nteziryayo, ex-military intelligence head Anatole Nsengiyumva, and former army officers Tharcisse Muvunyi and Innocent Sagahutu.
All four have served their sentences.
The other four were acquitted by the ICTR, including Protais Zigiranyirazo, who is the brother of former Rwandan first lady Agathe Habyarimana and was considered to be a prominent figure in the Hutu regime.
The other three were Francois-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, former commander of an elite battalion, ex-transport minister Andre Ntagerura and former civil service minister Prosper Mugiraneza.
“The interested parties will be given notice to leave the territory of Niger within seven days,” the minister order said, without indicating where they would be expelled to.
The authenticity of the order, published by the Nigerien newspaper Air Info, was confirmed to AFP by the interior minister, who declined to give further details.
On November 15, Niger signed an agreement with the UN to host nine Rwandans – the eight expelled as well as former Rwandan foreign minister Jerome Clement Bicamumpaka, who was also acquitted by the ICTR.
Ibuka, a Rwandan umbrella group of genocide survivor organisations, said it welcomed Niger’s move and called for the eight to be returned to Rwanda.
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“This decision by Niger will set an example to other genocidaires that they will always face justice,” Ibuka executive secretary Naphtali Ahishakiye told AFP.
“This is a good example of what should be done by all nations in saying ‘never again’,” he added, calling on countries to investigate and try genocide suspects hiding on their territory.
Around 800,000 people died between April and July 1994 in Rwanda as the extremist Hutu regime tried to wipe out the Tutsi minority, causing one of the 20th century’s biggest massacres.
Picture: Getty Images