|“||Guns are not only for soldiers. Every person can own a gun. If they shoot, you shoot back.||„|
|~ Kambanda at a pro-Hutu Power rally in May 1994.|
Jean Kambanda (born October 19, 1955) was the Prime Minister in the caretaker government of Rwanda from the start of the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, of which he was one of the principal architects. He is the only head of government to plead guilty to genocide, in the first group of such convictions since the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide came into effect in 1951.
Despite his role as the de jure leader of the Rwandan government during the genocide, in truth, Kambanda was simply serving as a figurehead leader to give the illusion that democracy was still in place. Most of the real political power was held by Colonel Théoneste Bagosora and his advisers. Kambanda did continue to have a major role in perpetuating the genocide, though.
Kambanda holds a degree in commercial engineering and began his career as a low-level United Popular BPR banker, rising as a technocrat to become the chair of the bank. At the time of the April 1994 crisis he was vice president of the Butare section of the opposition Republican Democratic Movement (MDR).
He was sworn in as Prime Minister on April 9, 1994 after the President, Juvénal Habyarimana, and former Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, were assassinated. The opposition MDR had been promised the prime ministerial post in the transitional government established by the Arusha Accords, but Kambanda leapfrogged several levels in the party's hierarchy to take the job from the initial choice, Faustin Twagiramungu.
Despite his role as a figurehead ruler, Kambanda still had an active role in perpetuating the genocide, making regular broadcasts on Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, the pro-Hutu propaganda station that formed during the genocide, where he would deliver obscenely racist sermons demonizing Tutsis and encouraging civilians to massacre them.
Like many of his fellow genocide perpetrators, Kambanda fled the country after Kigali fell to the Rwandan Patriotic Front in July 1994. He remained on the lam for three years until he was apprehended and arrested in Nairobi on July 18, 1997, after a seven-week multinational stakeout and transferred to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The court accused him of distributing small arms and ammunition in Butare and Gitarama with the knowledge that they would be used to massacre civilians. He was found guilty after pleading guilty, a plea he later rescinded, but which rescission the Court did not accept.
On September 4, 1998, the ICTR condemned Jean Kambanda to life imprisonment for:
- Genocide, and Agreement to commit genocide
- Public and direct incitation to commit genocide
- Aiding and abetting genocide
- Failing in his duty to prevent the genocide which occurred while he was prime minister
- Two counts of crimes against humanity
Kambanda is currently serving his life sentence in Koulikoro Prison in Mali.