Brussels, April 24, 2007 (FH) – “I was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” Major Bernard Ntuyahaga explained, declaring his innocence Monday and Tuesday before the Court of Assises in Brussels where he is accused of the assassination of ten Belgian Blue Helmets and also of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana on April 7, 1994 in Kigali.
According to the former Rwandan officer, aged 55 years, his case is “false and manipulated.” For two days he has refuted step by step, sometimes getting carried away, the elements contained in the indictment. “The fundamental basis for the case has been manipulated,” he said. “The UNMINAR (United Nations) officers and the Rwandan Armed Forces officers tried to protect themselves and everything has fallen again on me. And it’s been 13 years!” he said.
Ntuyahaga also denied any implication in the assassinations committed in his district of Kyovu between April 6 and 10 as well as those committed by soldiers in Butare when he was in charge of the Ngoma Camp. According to him, the majority of testimonies which accused him are “completely false compilations” on events “of which he had absolutely no knowledge of.”
“When I hear you it’s as if you knew no one, you lived in a neighbourhood, you were a soldier, a major, and you were a little like a ghost in that town,” the president, Karine Gerard remarked.
The defendant explained that from 1990 until 1994 he was at the front and upon his return to Kigali in 1994, he was “almost invisible” because of a construction site that occupied all his time. Asked by a civil party on the existence of a genocide of Tutsis, he responded “in our law until 1994 this word had no legal meaning, I learned about it after becoming a refugee in 1994. You need to ask about the definition to a specialist, to ask a soldier is to ask too much.”
“My role in this affair didn’t last longer than 20 minutes, during which time I transported the Blue Helmets,” he declared, stating that he had “never received amission” and “never received an order” on this subject. “The Blue Helmets asked me to bring them to UNMINAR. For me, the closest post was that of Captain Apedo (UN military observer in Camp Kigali). When I took them, I didn’t even know their nationality: they were Blue Helmets. And when I dropped them off, I didn’t speak to anyone, I wasn’t involved at all with this hearsay.”
Thursday at the opening of hearings, federal prosecutor Philippe Meire explained that Ntuyahaga took part in a mission between 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock on April 7, of a mission consisting of disarming Belgian paras accompanied by 5 Ghanian Blue Helmets following their arrival at the residence of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana. The Blue Helmets were in charge of escorting the Prime Minister to the national radio station.
They were then transported in a minibus driven by the officer to a military camp presented as a “secure location.” There, the on-site witnesses stated that he contributed to starting a rumor that Belgians planned the bombing, the previous evening, of President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane. The Belgian Blue Helmets were then attacked and lynched by Rwanda soldiers while the Ghanaian soldiers were released.
“Mr. Ntuyahaga did his duty,” explained his lawyer Luc de Temmerman. “He dropped of fifteen soldiers in front of his office (Camp Kigali). Then he left them. The whole city was saying that the Belgians took down the plane. And it was Mr. Ntuyahaga who spread the rumor? He went into his office and a mutiny ensued. Mr. Ntuyahaga came back, tried to intervene and then left. It was 10:15. And Bernard Ntuyahaga’s story ends there.”
The parents and friends of the killed Blue Helmets sat during the debates. For Martine Debatty, sister of Private First Class Alain Debatty, killed with other Blue Helmets, Bernard Ntuyahaga “is not telling the truth” and “blames others for his responsibility.”
Tuesday afternoon, the instruction judges in the trial should testify. On Wednesday, the first witnesses will appear. Hearings should last for at least two months.
© Hirondelle News Agency