Arusha, February 10, 2003 (FH) - A sister of former Rwandan Minister for Education and Higher Education Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda, testified on Monday in his defence before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. She strongly defended her brother against allegations by the prosecution that he was behind the massacres of Tutsis at Gikomero parish.

2 min 33Approximate reading time

The twentyfifth defence witness had been classified as a protected witness but before she began her testimony, she informed the court that she wanted the protection waived because she did not intend to conceal her identity. Kamuhanda is charged with eight counts including genocide, complicity in genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, including rape and murder. These crimes were allegedly committed in his native Gikomero commune (Kigali province, central Rwanda). According to the indictment, Kamuhanda organized killings in Gikomero in April 1994. He is also accused of distributing firearms, grenades and machetes to the militias to enable them to "kill all Tutsis and fight the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front Tutsi guerilla army]". Kamuhanda is also accused of personally leading attacks by soldiers and Interahmwe Hutu militias against Tutsi civilians who had taken refuge in the parish compound at Gikomero and in the school attached to it. Kamuhanda was not in Gikomero, says his sisterXaviera Nyiraminani, aged 36, and an inhabitant of Gikomero commune like the other previous witnesses, maintained that Kamuhanda was not in Gikomero when Tutsis were killed at the parish. " I can confirm that Kamuhanda never came to Gikomero on April 12th 1994", the witness said. Kamuhanda, the witness said, came to visit his ailing mother on Easter Sunday on April 3rd 1994 and brought her presents before he proceeded to Lake Muhazi where the family residence was. According to her, that was the last time her brother was seen in Gikomero. "Kamuhanda masterminded killings and execution of Tutsi at Gikomero. What do you say to that?" the prosecution attorney Ibonokulu Babajide from Nigeria asked the witness during crossquestioning. " If you are saying that Kamuhanda was a highly educated person I agree with you. He was an important person in view of what he had done to our family. As to the execution of the genocide, that is not true," Mrs Nyiraminani replied. Led in her chief examination by Kamuhanda's lead counsel Aicha Conde of Guinea, the witness stated that Kamuhanda never distributed any weapons in Gikomero prior to the attack at the parish as claimed by the prosecution. She also refuted allegations that her brother had visited her two cousins twice in Karupango, near the parish, while ferrying weapons in a vehicle. "The Interahamwe came to Gikomero with their weapons. Before then, there were no weapons distributed in Gikomero," she stated. Nyiraminani added that she would have seen Kamuhanda visiting her cousins because their houses were adjacent to hers. Kamuhanda not influentialThe witness told the court that Kamuhanda, contrary to what some prosecution witnesses stated, was not an influential person in Gikomero despite the fact that he was a highly educated man. " Of course in our family we considered him powerful due to his education," Nyiraminani said but she added that there were more influential people in the commune than him. She recalled that on April 12th 1994, the inhabitants of Karupango fled when the Interahamwe attacked the Tutsis at the parish. Nyiraminani fled towards her family's home in Gasagara while other inhabitants sought refuge in Muhazi and Kibodo. "My family and other people of that region fled, Hutu and Tutsi alike and even the Twa," Nyiraminani stated. When she returned from her mother's home in the evening she found that the Interahamwe had killed both Hutus and Tutsis at the parish. The witness told the court that she fled her home on April 13th to Byumba Prefecture until July when word went round that the Interahamwe would come back to kill again. The trial continues on Tuesday with the testimony of other defence witnesses. Kamuhanda's trial is before Trial Chamber II composed of Judges William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson (Madagascar) and Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu (Lesotho)PJ/CE/FH (KH0210e)