13.09.07 - ICTR/RUKUNDO - ABBOT RUKUNDO WAS A "GOD SEND", ACCORDING TO A WITNESS

Arusha, 13 September 2007 (FH) - Abbot Emmanuel Rukundo, accused before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) of participating in the1994 genocide, was a "God send" by preventing a massacre in the communal center of Nyabikenke, affirmed another priest who came to defend him.
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Father André Lerusse, a Belgian clergyman, who currently is posted in Central Africa, explained Wednesday and Thursday to the court that he was at the time of the genocide in this small commune of central Rwanda when on 15 April 1994 several hundred people tried to massacre approximately 500 Tutsis who had taken refuge in the communal office.

"Two jeeps arrived, which where going from Gitarama to Ruhengeri, Rukundo (then a military chaplain) came out in uniform, we exchanged some words, the attackers moved back, then he spoke to them" he explained. This diversion, according to him, was enough to get people out of the building. I could then leave with endangered people ".

"As the attackers had waited hours and that they prepared to kill us, they let to us pass as a kind of procession (...) I see the presence of God there" he said remembering that he was soaked "as if he had fallen into a river" after having followed the fugitives to the exit of the village and slowed down the attackers on a bridge so that the refugees could flee.

"Emmanuel was sent by God to save us. For me, it is really providential ", told the witness, stressing that the defendant had succeeded in calming the attackers, thus allowing, the Tutsis refugees to escape.

He also affirmed that Abbot Rukundo was not interested by the military chaplaincy but that he had accepted this duty by simple obedience to his bishop.

Father Larusse who arrived in Rwanda in 1971 was expelled in 1998, according to him, for having denounced exactions of the new Rwandan army.

PB/ER/MM
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