'My conscience is clear': Former Rwanda PM Jean Kambanda tells ITV News he was tricked into genocide confession

Kambanda shows John Ray around his Mali prison complex. Credit: ITV News

ITV News statement on interview with Jean Kambanda

We are responding to comment about our report on June 21st which included a rare interview with the jailed former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda (see below).

The report by ITV News Africa Correspondent John Ray, highlighted in some detail the scale of the atrocities that occurred in Rwanda in 1994. Its opening description of Kambanda was that he “presided over the Rwandan genocide”. In the interview itself we strongly challenged the former Prime Minister’s denials. He was asked directly why he did not stop the killing, and why he distributed weapons to the Hutu killers.

The report also placed the facts in context:

  • A response was included from one of the best known experts on the genocide, and an interview with a children’s nurse who blamed Kambanda personally for doing nothing to save Tutsi children sheltering in hospital.

  • The 800,000 death toll was described as “monstrous crimes”.

  • In a studio interview, John Ray said many people – including the present Rwandan government – would dismiss everything Kambanda says as a “self-serving attempt to re-write history”.

The report was an example of robust and balanced, independent journalism. The report raised awareness of one of the most chilling episodes of recent African history.

Any interview with a controversial figure will raise difficult ethical issues. Fundamentally it is our duty to inform the public. This can include interviews with controversial individuals. This is a legitimate function of a news organisation, providing, appropriate challenges and factual context are included in the report.

One commentator suggested ITV News had received payment for the interview. That is not correct. No payment was received and we would never accept payment in the course of our journalism. Our editorial decision making is independent and impartial.

The original report is below

More than any nation, Rwanda is still haunted by a malign past. That can be no surprise. An estimated 800,000 people died in the genocide of 1994.

The country’s Hutu majority, whipped into a frenzy of hatred by their leaders, sought to eradicate the Tutsi minority.

Armed with machetes, they killed at a rate faster even than the Nazis.For twenty one years, one of the leading figures of that blood-soaked time has barely spoken of his role.

Read: The prison holding Africa's most notorious war criminals

Jean Kambanda was the Prime Minister during one hundred days of almost unimaginable horror.

Now from his high security prison cell in Mali he has given ITV News his first interview.

He claims, despite his conviction by a UN tribunal for crimes against humanity, that he is innocent after all.

Kambanda speaks to us in his prison in Mali. Credit: ITV News

He claims he was effectively tricked into confessing; that at his trial he was denied a lawyer of his choice.

We also travelled to Rwanda and spoke to a witness of one of the many atrocities perpetrated during Kambanda’s period in power.

You can decide for yourself which version of history you think is more credible.

Kambanda was given a life sentence after confessing to crimes against humanity at a UN tribunal in 1998.

But the problem with Rwanda is that history cannot be consigned to the past; try as the modern Tutsi-led government of Paul Kagame might.

Great economic and social progress is widely acknowledged. The government claims it has healed the lethal ethnic divide. But what of its record on human rights?

The verdict of, among others, Human Rights Watch is damming.Rwanda, it says, "imposes severe restrictions on freedom of expression and does not tolerate dissent".

Pictures of genocide victims donated by survivors at a memorial in Kigali. Credit: Radu Sigheti/Reuters

It claims "opponents and critics insides and outside the country have been killed, attacked or threatened."

Last month in London, the head of Rwanda’s intelligence services, Emmanuel Karenzi Karake, appeared in court.

He is fighting extradition to Spain where he faces allegations relating to crimes against humanity.

Question marks surround the human rights record of current Rwandan prime minister. Credit: Adam Hunger/Reuters

The story, denied by the Rwandan authorities, is that many unarmed Hutu civilians were the victims of revenge killings by the advancing Tutsi army in the wake of the genocide.

Meanwhile, against opposition of his backers in the west, Paul Kagame is now thought to be considering changing the constitution to seek a third term in office.

Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid for a third term has prompted huge unrest. Credit: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters

In neighbouring Burundi, beset by the same ethnic split, the same decision by the serving president has set off weeks of violence and strife.

So when Kambanda tells us that in Rwanda dangerous divisions between Hutu and Tutsi remain and that the country is “like a volcano that will one day expode again’’ here at least he is not simply trying to re-write history, but to point out the real perils that persist.