Arusha, 5 October 2007 (FH) - Abbot Emmanuel Rukundo began Friday his testimony in his own defence before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) which is trying him for genocide, assassination and extermination, noted the Hirondelle agency.   

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Right off the start, the former military chaplain, 48, defended himself of being "a notorious extremist", hating Tutsis from an early age. His family, he explained, comes from the two sides.
He affirmed that from elementary school to his ordination in July 1991, while passing by the seminary, he always had very good friends among his Tutsi colleagues.
He stated that the attack of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) on 1 October 1990, as he was a student at the Seminary of Nyakibanda, in the south of the country, had not changed his relationship with his Tutsi friends of this catholic establishment.
"I maintained the same friendships. They had their opinions (on the war), I had mine. Divergence of opinions is a normal thing ", testified the catholic priest.
He explained that for him, the war started by the RPF was not justified whereas it appeared legitimate for the Tutsi priests of the seminary.
But he refuted the allegations according to which the brilliant composer that he was ever produced songs renting the courage and bravery of the Rwandan Armed Forces (RAF), the governmental army of the time.
"My repertory only included liturgical fields", he insisted on the first day of a testimony which promises to be long due, in particular, to his many digressions.
Rukundo affirmed that he had been fascinated since his childhood by the priesthood and that he had been encouraged, in that, by his father who always prayed that at least one of his children "would devote themselves to God".
Originating from Gitarama, in central Rwanda, he is being detained with two other catholic priests, Athanase Seromba and Hormisdas Nsengimana.
This latter is still on trial like Rukundo while Seromba was sentenced to 15 years in prison in first instance.
The highest ranking ecclesiastical person ever arrested by the ICTR, Anglican Bishop Samuel Musabyimana, died in detention in 2003, before the opening of his trial.
Adventist Pasteur Elisaphan Ntakirutimana, the first clergyman tried by the ICTR, died after a long illness at the beginning of the year, only a few weeks after having served his 10 years prison sentence.
Based in Arusha, in the northern Tanzania, the ICTR has pronounced, up to date, 28 convictions and 5 acquittals.

© Hirondelle News Agency