A human rights organization has called on civil and religious authorities in Rwanda and Italy to facilitate the arrest and prosecution of a Catholic priest implicated in the massacre of 80 or so Rwandese students during the genocide 15 years ago.
In a report to mark the students’ massacre at Kibeho College of Arts in southern Rwanda on May 7, 1994, Africa Rights on Thursday published a report urging the authorities to carry out their own investigations about Fr. Emmanuel Uwayezu.
Fr. Uwayezu, the report says, now lives in northern Italy and serves at a parish in Empoli, a small city about 20 kilometers west of Florence. The parish, called Madonna del Rosario e S. Pio V a Ponzano, belongs to the Diocese of Florence.
Africa Rights report, with detailed accounts of the events as related in interviews with survivors and other people, says Fr. Uwayezu abandoned his students and laid the groundwork for their massacre.
The youngsters were studying at the Groupe Scolaire Marie in Kibeho where Fr. Uwayezu had been the headmaster for two years. “They died at the nearby College of Arts because that is where Fr. Uwayezu, after separating them along ethic lines, sent all the Tutsis.”
The report says the priest had for two years prior to the massacre allowed students, particularly those displaced from other war-affected areas, to spread ethnic hatred at the school.
On April 7, he gathered students to announce the killing of President Juvenal Habyarimana “in a manner that was calculated to inflame ethnic tensions and suspicions.”
The report further accuses Fr. Uwayezu of inviting gendarmes to camp at the school. On April 14-15, the gendarmes took part in the massacre of some 20,000 people at nearby Kibeho Parish.
“Fr. Uwayezu ignored pleas for help from Tutsi students who said Hutu classmates had told them of a plan to massacre them, and that the gendarmes were taking a census of Tutsi within the school.” Some Hutu students secretly fled.
The priest, accompanied by an influential delegation, which include the prefect of Gikongoro and Bishop Augustin Misago, assured the students of safety. But on the morning of May 7, militiamen waving machetes and knives surrounded the students. The massacre started. Fr Uwayezu was nowhere to be seen.
“Except for a handful of survivors, most of the students at the college perished, killed by the guns and grenades of the gendarmes or the spears, axes and machetes of the militiamen,” the report says.
Fr. Uwayezu returned to the college several days afterwards “to arrange for the gendarmes to provide military training to the Hutu male students so they could seek out survivors and also help the army fight the [Rwanda Patriotic Front].”
Africa Rights says that the lives of the 80 or so students had been entrusted to Fr. Uwayezu by their parents and the Catholic Church in Rwanda which appointed him to head the school. “He is now in the employ of the church in Florence. Only a court of law can establish his individual innocence or guilt.”