Col Nsengiyumva Passed Away:The Uncertain Fate of Former Rwandan Officers in Niger

On May 7, 2024, it was reported that Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, a former Rwandan military officer, passed away in Niamey, Niger. Colonel Nsengiyumva was among the group of former officers who had either been acquitted or completed their sentences adjudicated by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, originally based in Arusha, Tanzania.

Born in 1950 in the former Commune Satinskyi, Gisenyi Prefecture, Nsengiyumva pursued a military education at the Officer’s School (EO) in Kigali, graduating in 1971 as part of the 10th promotion. He began his military career closely serving President Habyarimana as an officier d’ordonnance and Aide de Camp following the 1973 coup d’état. Later, he significantly contributed to military intelligence, serving as the G2 head of intelligence in the army’s general staff until 1992, after which he commanded troops in the Gisenyi combat sector.

Arrested in Cameroon in March 1996, he was transferred to the Arusha tribunal in January 1997. During the Militaire1 trial, alongside Gen IG Gratien Kabiligi, Col BEMS Théoneste Bagosora, and Major CGSC Aloys Ntabakuze, Nsengiyumva denied all charges of genocide. Initially sentenced to life in prison in 2008, his sentence was reduced on appeal in 2011 to 15 years, effectively leading to his release due to time already served.

Post-release, he struggled to find a country to accept him or to reunite with his family, leading to his relocation to Niger in late 2021 along with eight other former officers. This arrangement was part of an agreement between the residual mechanism of the Arusha tribunal and Niger. However, their stay in Niger was marked by uncertainty and reluctance from local authorities and insufficient action from the United Nations to secure their resettlement or family reunification.

Colonel Nsengiyumva’s death in Niger highlights a broader issue affecting former Rwandan officers who find themselves in limbo after serving their sentences. His situation was not unique, as Colonel Tharcisse Muvunyi also passed away in Niger in 2023 under similar circumstances, after being denied medical treatment abroad.