Arusha, 12 July 2007 (FH)-Father Emmanuel Rukundo, accused of genocide, was not an extremist, stated a defence witness Thursday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).  

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The Prosecutor alleges that Rukundo, 48, ordained priest in July 1991, was " was known as an extremist" since his youth.

The witness, who studied with Rukundo at the Grand Séminaire of Nyakibanda, said that this allegation was false.

"No. Who can say that? It is no ", declared the witness who testified under anonymity for reasons of safety.

He was answering the questions of the priest's lawyer, Aicha Condé (France).

The indictment indicates that in October 1990 Rukundo, then studying at the Grand Séminaire of Nyakibanda in Butare (southern Rwanda), "created a group of extremists to collect money to support the Rwandese Armed Forces (RAF) to fight the RPF (rebellion that was dominated by Tutsis).At that time he swore that he would take to the bush if the RPF won the war."

The document adds that Rukundo " hated the Tutsi. Since about 1973, he fought against his Tutsi colleagues at the Petit Séminaire of Kabgayi". (central Rwanda).

He would have also declared that " the Grand Séminaire of Nyakibanda was a bastion of the Tutsi, and that it was difficult to live in such a milieu as Hutu, and as one who would become a priest."

The witness reported that Rukundo was among the priests in the seminary who lived in harmony with everyone, without distinction of ethnic groups.

Rukundo became a military chaplain, little after his ordination. The Prosecutor alleges that the military chaplains were recruited among extremist priests.

The witness indicated that he knew all the military chaplains in the country and gave the names of some of them.

"Nobody will say to you that these men were extremists. They lived with everyone without looking at ethnic groups as the majority of Rwandans unfortunately did", he explained.

Arrested in July 2001 in Switzerland, Rukundo is accused of massacring Tutsis in central Rwanda. He has pleaded not guilty. His trial began on 15 November 2006. He has been calling defence witnesses since 9 July.


© Hirondelle News Agency