16.07.07 - ICTR/RUKUNDO - FATHER RUKUNDO WAS NOT A POLITICAL ACTIVIST, ACCORDING TO A WITNESS

Arusha, 16 July 2007 (FH)-Emmanuel Rukundo, a catholic priest accused of genocide, was not a political activist, a witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Monday.

 

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The protected defence witness "NYC" contradicted the allegations that Emmanuel Rukundo was politically involved when he was a student at the Grand Séminaire of Nyakibanda (southern Rwanda).

Rukundo, 48, was ordained priest in July 1991. He later became a military chaplain.

Witness NYC acquainted Rukundo between 1988 and 1991 in Nyakibanda.

Witnesses for the prosecution affirmed that Emmanuel Rukundo, a Hutu, had openly sided with the then government and regularly uttered threats against Tutsis after the attack of 1 October 1990 by rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The RPF was dominantly Tutsi.

According to these witnesses, Rukundo would have composed a song to galvanize the governmental troops after the death of the rebel leader Fred Rwigema.

The indictment stipulates that in Nyakibanda, Rukundo, which had created a group of extremists for the purpose of raising funds to support the army, had also sworn "to take the bush if the RPF won the war".

Witness NYC, for his part, introduced the defendant as a model student. "When I arrived at the Grand Séminaire of Nyakibanda, I found Mr. Rukundo to be an intelligent person, someone who could be a model for me. He was gifted. He was opened to every one".

The witness added that the defendant, an author and composer of religious music, had never composed songs for the army.

He explained why when the local political authorities required that the seminary join the population at the time of a march to support the army, Rukundo had not played an active role in the rally.

"Emmanuel Rukundo, like the other students at the seminary, was mixed in the population. He was not at all illustrious in this march ", said the witness, "Neither in the organization, nor in its unfolding, he did not play any part ", he underlined.

Witness NYC explained that the seminary was obligated to take part in this march to avoid marginalizing and endangering the lives of the students and professors.

Like the preceding witnesses for the defence, NYC recognized that Rukundo had formed part of a group of students appointed by the vice-chancellor of the seminary to collect funds intended for "the war effort" but that his mission only consisted in recording the voluntary contributions.

In trial since 16 November 2006, Rukundo is accused of murdering Tutsis in central Rwanda. He has pleaded not guilty. The defence case started last week. He is one of the four priests indicted before the ICTR.

AT/MM

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