Arusha, 26 September 2007 (FH) - A defence witness stated that musician Simon Bikindi, accused of having incited the Tutsi genocide through his work, sang rather about equality between Rwandans, Wednesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).   

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Protected witness "XBR", a Tutsi, was a member of the Imbonezamihigo ballet that was headed by Bikindi in the 1980's.
XBR was part of the band that played the song "Twasereye ingoma ya cyami" (We said good-bye to feudalism) at the time of the 25th anniversary of Rwanda's independence in 1987.
The ICTR prosecutor states that at least three of Bikindi's songs, including "Twasezereye ingoma ya cyami", were a component of the genocide plan.
The prosecution alleges that Bikindi's works encouraged hatred against Tutsis and invited people to attack and kill them because of their ethnicity.
The witness, who sang before the chamber a part of "Twasezereye ingoma ya cyami", stated that the message conveyed in the song was rather, 25 years after independence, "the country was peaceful and that the Hutus, Tutsis and Twas were equal".
The witness indicated that the message was clear and that the members of the band did not need Bikindi's influence to understand it.
"We understood the message. We did nothing but express the fact that we were no longer in this monarchical system during which many people had suffered ", explained XBR.
Entering a little further in the matter, the witness indicated that a part of the text says: "dear Rwandans, come see the new Rwanda where Hutus, Tutsis and Twas are equal. The whip, forced labour is no longer. We answer present, young people and old, we are ready to work for the development of Rwanda".
According to XBR, "the message reflected the reality of the country. Hutus, Tutsis, Twas were equal".
Rwandan official historiography, before 1994, stated of the serfdom of Hutus by Tutsis before independence.
The witness also declared that Bikindi was not a politician. His lawyers stated that his only passion was music.
Bikindi is represented by Andreas O' Shea from the Bar of England and Wales and Jean de Dieu Momo from the Bar of Cameroon.
In introducing the defence witnesses Monday, O' Shea indicated that Bikindi's songs certainly refer to a historical context but that the artist was by no means a politically motivated man.
Arrested in the Netherlands in July 2001, Bikindi, 53, has been on trial since 18 September 2006. The prosecutor called 17 witnesses in this case. The defence plans to call 42. The last witness for the defence should be heard on 21 November.

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