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Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 13:58 GMT 14:58 UK
Rwanda's 'genocide general'
Soldier looks at bones of the genocide victims
Bizimungu is accused of masterminding the genocide

Augustin Bizimungu topped the list of eight genocide suspects on the run, for whom the United States Government recently offered a reward of up to $5m.

Photos from before 1994 show a man in an open-neck shirt with an intense piercing gaze.

He looks too young to hold such a senior position.

General Augustin Bizimungu
Bizimungu was found with former rebels in Angola
People who knew him describe him as timid and not terribly intelligent.

"He couldn't look you in the eye for very long and he couldn't stand his ground and argue," said one acquaintance, who was unstinting in his praise of some of General Bizimungu's fellow officers.

"He wasn't even a terribly good fighter," he added.

What made his career was a blind devotion to the cause of the late Juvenal Habyarimana's regime.

Mr Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down in April 1994, sparking the genocide.

Shadowy figure

General Bizimungu was born in Byumba in northern Rwanda, close to the home of his mentor Felicien Kabuga, the man who introduced him into Mr Habyarimana's inner circle and made his career.

The young officer was promoted very quickly.


The RPF will rule over a desert

Augustin Bizimungu

"When he received the rank of general, his peers were still lieutenant colonels," said one officer.

Augustin Bizimungu was named chief of staff with the backing of Theoneste Bagosora, a shadowy figure alleged to have masterminded the genocide from behind the scenes, himself now on trial in Arusha.

For the first 10 days of the genocide, Marcel Gatsinzi, a moderate, chosen by his fellow officers, was chief of staff.

One week into the slaughter, Mr Gatsinzi was ousted.

Colonel Bagosora replaced him with Augustin Bizimungu, the man he had favoured for the post all along.

'Self-defence'

General Bizimungu was apparently smart enough to understand that continuing support for his regime from France depended on disguising genocide as "civilian self-defence" or "pacification".

This concern led him to condemn the 1 May killing of more than 30 orphans and Red Cross workers in the southern town of Butare.

But the killing continued under a different name.

Meanwhile, the Rwandan Patriotic Front rebel fighters gained more and more ground, taking Kigali on 4 July.

By then, more than one million Rwandan Hutus had crossed into the Democratic Republic of Congo (then called Zaire), urged to flee by Augustin Bizimungu's officers.

Two weeks later, General Bizimungu, in the Congolese town of Goma himself, declared: "The RPF will rule over a desert."

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Kingsley Moghalu, Special Council ICTR
"This is a major breakthrough"

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