Richard Karegyesa
Acting Chief of Prosecutions
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Country of Origin:
Interview Date:
October 29, 2008
Arusha, Tanzania
Batya Friedman
Ronald Slye
Nell Carden Grey
4:28 - 10:40


Batya Friedman: So I’d like to take you back now to the spring of 1994. And thinking back then, what, where were you in 1994 and, and what were you doing then?
I was a practicing attorney in Uganda. I’d actually just returned from a three-year stint with the United Nations in, in Mombasa, Kenya, where I’d been a legal advisor on a regional project covering Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and Eastern Zaire. It had to do with international trade, transport freight and customs. So I’d gone back to my law firm in Kampala when the plane went down, as it were, on 6th of April 1994.
BF: So were, were you in Uganda at that point?
I was in Uganda.
BF: And how, had you settled back in to this firm and life in Uganda and Kampala?
Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
BF: So what was your life like at that point?
Well I’d just settled back home. I, I, I’d returned, I believe, end of January and, you know, I was back at the law firm in a commercial corporate practice, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
BF: Mm-hmm. And what were you thinking, at that point, what were you thinking your career trajectory was going to be?
Well I’d, prior to that I'd been a prosecutor for eight years, up to the time I left the government service in 1990. And my trajectory then was, you know, mainstream legal practice, commercial corporate and consulting. And what I’d been doing with the UN was part of my consulting practice, yeah. And I did continue consulting for international agencies, UN agencies, the European Union, British ODA, you know, before the creation of the DFID . . .
BF: Mm-hmm.
. . . yeah, i-, in, in Sub Saharan Africa.
BF: Mm-hmm. So you were mostly thinking about commercial law business . . .
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
BF: . . . yeah, in one way or another. Then when did you hear about the genocide in Rwanda?
Well I watched it unfold, you know, on CNN. You know, in about a couple of weeks, you know, bodies were floating down the Kagera into, into, into Lake Victoria and, you know, the price of fish collapsed. Nobody wanted to eat fish because, you know, it was just horrendous. Yeah, yeah, yeah. And, and we watched it unfold over the next three months. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
BF: What did you think at the time?
I mean, I mean no memory evokes such horror as – I guess it was the first time we were getting, you know, live coverage from, from an area of conflict. We’d probably had satellite TV for about a year or so, so you know we were getting real time broadcasts and it was just, you know, unbelievable. And then, you know, bodies started washing up on our shores.
You know, and I, I, I continued receiving these images. Even I traveled to, to West Africa in, in July round about the time that the U.S., I think it was the Defense Secretary at the time, flew into Kampala because of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding then in, in Goma – not so much, you know, what had just happened in Rwanda.
You know so, so we, we actually got more footage from the refugee camps around Goma. And all the humanitarian effort you know was going to Goma, you know, to the refugees and rather than survivors of this mass murder.
BF: And what are some of your, your memories from that time? How did you react, what, what did you – I mean, was it just something happening around you or something, did you became engaged in some way with what was going on?
Not directly. I do remember going to, to Kigali most probably late August or early September and I just couldn’t believe what I saw. I mean the, the smell of death hung in the air and, and, you know, walls were blood stained, you know, buildings were burnt out or pockmarked and y-, you’ve been to our Kigali office.
You know refugees were still in the stadium, you know, the Amahoro Stadium, you know, barbed wire and sand bags around it. And I remember the time the government was trying to clear the streets and drains, you know, you know, of rotting corpses and they had to shoot all the dogs in town because the dogs had gotten used to eating corpses.
And, you know, when those were cleaned out of town, you know, they actually wanted, you know, to, to eat people. You know, they’d gotten used to eating human flesh. Yeah. And, you know, I-, I’ve never quite managed to erase that memory from my mind, yeah.