Protais Zigiranyirazo, alias “Monsieur Z” or also “Zigi”, was born in 1938 in Giciye commune in the prefecture of Gisenyi, Rwanda. He was the Préfet of Ruhengeri from 1974 to 1989. He subsequently became a businessman. He is the brother of Agathe Kanzig (wife of the former President of Rwanda), and through this relationship, the brother-in-law of President Habyarimana. He was therefore a member of “Akazu” (literally the “small house”; a term used to designate the entourage of President Habyarimana). By virtue of this relationship, he was in a position of strong influence and political power. As such he exercised control and de facto authority over the military, the Interahamwe (an extremist Hutu militia), high ranking State administration officials, and the population of Rwanda.
Zigiranyirazo was alleged to have adhered to, executed and participated in a plan aimed at the extermination of the Tutsi and members of the opposition. Between 6 April and 17 July 1994, Zigiranyirazo was said to have reached an arrangement with other members of the government and the military authorities of the prefectures of Kigali-Ville and Gisenyi to plan, prepare and facilitate attacks against the Tutsi throughout Rwanda and more precisely in the Gisenyi prefecture.
Around the month of September 1993, Zigiranyirazo was said to have been present at a meeting close to his home in Gisenyi, where he reportedly reached an agreement to take up action against the Tutsi. In April 1994, Zigiranyirazo allegedly invited the mayors and commune councillors to a meeting at the Palm Beach Hotel in Gisenyi in order to plan and organise the Tutsi genocide. During the same period, Zigiranyirazo was also reported to have met with the military authorities of Gisenyi and Ruhengeri on an almost daily basis in order to plan the organisation and the execution of the genocide in Gisenyi. He was also accused of having financed the creation of the Interahamwe. Furthermore, he was said to have participated in and facilitated the organisation, the arming and training of the Interahamwe and the local Gisenyi population.
On or about 8 April 2004, around 2'000 Tutsis sought refuge in the hills around Gashihe and Kesho, in Gaseke commune in the prefecture of Gisenyi close to the tea factory of Rubaya. Zigiranyirazo reportedly led a convoy of members of the Armed Presidential Guard, gendarmes and the Interahamwe and gave them the order to kill the Tutsis. Around 1'000 Tutsis were killed during this attack. During the week of 14 to 20 April 1994, a second attack was reportedly ordered by Zigiranyirazo in order to kill the Tutsis who had survived the first attack.
Around 11 April 1994, Zigiranyirazo was alleged to have conspired with his sister and others to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus. They reportedly drew up a list of influential Tutsis and moderate Hutus to be executed.
From April to July 1994, Zigiranyirazo was alleged to have ordered or authorised the setting up of roadblocks close to his three residences located respectively in Gasiza, Gisenyi and Kiyovu, knowing that these roadblocks would be used as part of the overall plan to exterminate the Tutsis.
Around 14 April 1994, Zigiranyirazo reportedly ordered the military and the Interahamwe at the Kiyovu roadblock to search the neighbouring houses and to kill the Tutsis that were to be found there. He also was alleged to have issued an order that all of the Tutsis who tried to cross over this roadblock be killed, an order which was carried out by the military and the Interahamwe.
From April to June 1994, at the “Corniche” roadblock in Gisenyi town,on the road leading to the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tutsi civilians and moderate Hutus were killed by the military, the Interahamwe and armed civilians all under the authority of Zigiranyirazo and in response to his direct order. Zigiranyirazo was said to have offered drinks and money to the Interahamwe at the Giciye roadblock in order to incite them to kill Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Furthermore, in May1994, Zigiranyirazo was said to have given the order to his son to kill three gendarmes who had been arrested at the roadblock and identified as being associated with the FPR (Rwandan Patriotic Front, an opposition movement composed essentially of Tutsi refugees and led by Paul Kagame). Zigiranyirazo’s son was reported to have followed this order and killed the three gendarmes. Their bodies were then thrown into the Giciyi river. Afterwards, Zigiranyirazo was alleged to have improperly used his authority by forcing the inhabitants of Giciyi commune to give the investigators a false version of the events related to the killing of these three gendarmes.
In July 1994, faced with the advance of the FPR troops, Zigiranyirazo fled from Rwanda. On 26 July 2001, he was arrested in Brussels, Belgium.