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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

10 Years On, Rwanda Remains Divided

KIGALI, Rwanda -- Rwandans hungry for justice demanded on Monday tougher efforts to track down and punish killers who carried out the 1994 genocide, saying there could be no reconciliation while suspects were still at large.

Delivering justice to genocide victims has proved a tough challenge for Rwanda, burdened by more than 80,000 prisoners accused of crimes during the massacres 10 years ago and the knowledge that many top suspects are still hiding abroad.

"If there's no justice, there can be no reconciliation. We need to know the truth," Antoine Mugesera, former head of the genocide survivors group Ibuka, told a conference marking the 10th anniversary of the genocide.

"There were more than a million victims, that means there's an even greater number of people who are guilty," he said, referring to the way many of the killings were carried out by mobs hacking or clubbing their victims to death.

"That's the challenge -- to bring all these people to justice," he said on the sidelines of the second day of a three-day conference to draw lessons from the genocide.

Participants discuss justice and reconciliation on Monday ahead of a memorial ceremony on Wednesday to bury some of the most recently discovered victims in a tomb housing the remains of an estimated 250,000 people killed in the capital Kigali.

"The forces and ideologues responsible for the genocide in our country have been defeated; they have not been destroyed.

"They still exist," Rwandan President Paul Kagame told delegates at the opening of the conference Sunday. "The real question is: How can we uproot these forces of evil and ensure that they are no longer a menace to our societies?"

Scores of workers set to work clearing weeds from the verge of the main boulevard in Kigali on Monday, joining frenetic preparations for the memorial ceremony ahead of the arrival of heads of state, expected to include South African President Thabo Mbeki and other African leaders.

The genocide began after a plane carrying the Rwandan and Burundian presidents was shot down on April 6, 1994, acting as the starter pistol for the massacre of Tutsis and moderate Hutus by extremists from the politically dominant Hutu majority.

One of the most pressing issues is how to deal with the thousands of suspects held in overcrowded Rwandan jails, whose trials for their suspected role as rank-and-file killers will take decades to resolve using normal courts.

Rwanda has introduced a system of village courts known as Gacaca to speed up the process, training local judges and asking neighbors to act as informal juries in trials for people who may have been their friends or even relatives.

The system has accelerated the process of sifting through the legions of suspects who appear at the trials in their pink prison uniforms, but human rights groups have warned of the dangers of false accusations and lack of legal safeguards.

The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda has arrested 66 of the 81 people indicted for genocide-related crimes, but has made only 18 convictions in 10 years, hardly satisfying Rwanda, which says some 300 ringleaders live abroad.