Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Dian Fossey Life and Death

Justice Delayed

President Habyarimana
President Habyarimana

In April 1994, President Habyarimana was killed in an airplane crash that was regarded as an assassination.

Mr. Z and the president were Hutus, the majority ethnicity. In retaliation for Habyarimana's death, his widow, Mr. Z, military commanders and other Hutu government officials plotted genocide against the Tutsi minority. Over the ensuing four months, 937,000 Tutsi citizens and their supporters were slaughtered.

After years on the lam, Mr. Z was arrested in Belgium in 2001 while traveling on a false passport. Now 67, he is being held in Africa while awaiting trial on genocide charges by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The proceedings are scheduled to begin in May 2005.

Most observers believe the magnitude of the genocide allegations makes it unlikely that Zigiranyirazo will ever face formal charges in Fossey's murder, even though Rwandan authorities now publicly identify him as the leader of the plot to kill the researcher.

Protais Zigiranyirazo
Protais Zigiranyirazo

And what of Fossey's beloved gorillas?

Ape tourism resumed in the years following the genocide, and Rwanda now has embraced the mountain gorilla as its symbol. The gorilla appears on the Rwandan passport, tourist visas and currency.

The country charges tourists a gorilla-viewing fee of $250 — coincidentally, a figure nearly equal to the Rwandan per-capita annual income.

The tourism income motivated the Rwandan government to crack down on poaching, which is far less prevalent today.

Today, there are about 350 mountain gorillas, 100 more than Fossey's estimate in 1968.

In 1992, the Digit Fund that Fossey created to protect the gorillas was renamed the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. It is now one of many organizations that sponsor gorilla tourism safaris to the jungles where she once lolled with Digit and the other apes.

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