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Rwandan mayors go on trial in France over 1994 genocide

This file photo taken on 7 April, 2000 shows workers from a team diggers, unearth remains from a mass grave in Nyamirambo near Kigali, Rwanda
This file photo taken on 7 April, 2000 shows workers from a team diggers, unearth remains from a mass grave in Nyamirambo near Kigali, Rwanda Marco Longari/AFP

Two Rwandan ex-mayors go on trial in France,Tuesday, on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide over the 1994 massacres in the former Belgian colony.

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Octavien Ngenzi, 58, and Tito Barahira, 64, go on trial for allegedly playing a direct role in the massacre of hundreds of Tutsi refugees in a church in the eastern town of Kabarondo on 13 April, 1994.

The pair were sentenced in 2009 in absentia to life imprisonment by Rwandan people's courts, known as 'gacaca'.

They were both mayors of Kabarondo, a town near the border with Tanzania, Ngenzi having succeeded Barahira in 1986.

They deny accusations of carrying out "massive and systematic summary executions" and implementing a "concerted plan aimed at the annihilation" of the Tutsi minority.

The bloodshed was over by the end of April, when Tutsi rebels in the armed wing of what is now the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR) took control of the area.

The trial, which is set to last eight weeks, comes two years after that of Pascal Simbikangwa, a former Rwandan army captain who was jailed for 25 years for his role in the genocide.

Two decades on, Rwanda still accuses France of complicity in the genocide - in which at least 800,000 people died in an 100-day slaughter - because of its unwavering support for the Hutu nationalist government at the time.

On the 20th anniversary of the mass killings two years ago, Rwanda's minority Tutsi president, Paul Kagame, openly accused French soldiers of not only complicity in the genocide but of actually taking part in it.

- With AFP

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