18.10.07 - ICTR/MILITARY II - GENERAL BIZIMUNGU WAS NOT AGAINST TUTSIS - A BELGIAN PRIEST

  Arusha, 18 October 2007 (FH) - General Augustin Bizimungu who was Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army in 1994, was not against Tutsis, stated a Belgian priest Thursday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
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"I never noticed Augustin Bizimungu having the least hostility towards Tutsis" declared Father Léopold Greindl, called by the defence of the Rwandan General prosecuted for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.
 
A member of the congregation of the White Fathers, Léopold Greindl was a missionary in Africa for thirty years, about half that time was spent in Rwanda.
 
In Rwanda, he build, then directed, the superior catholic institute of applied pedagogy in Nkumba, near Ruhengeri (Northern province), from 1982 to 1993.
 
The witness indicated to have met Bizimungu on several occasions, he was on duty in the area of Ruhengeri during most of this period.
 
"I never noticed something from him which could suggest racism", he explained.
 
Father Greindl added that he met a lot of people who knew this officer and that nobody had alleged that he had expressed anti-Tutsi feelings.
 
The Belgian missionary, on the other hand, stated that Bizimungu was worried by the fate of the displaced persons that the war had caused and that he preached for negotiations with the Tutsi dominated rebellion, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), then in conflict with the government.
 
The witness indicated that in his discussions with Bizimungu, the officer often asked the question: "What can we do to put an end to this conflict, to relieve this population which does not know what tomorrow will bring, which does not know what saint to turn to?".
 
Bizimungu took care of an orphanage in the town of Ruhengeri, added the witness who reported that he showed a "great social concern".
 
Bizimungu, who has pleaded not guilty, is on trial alongside three other officers. He is the first to present his defence in this trial which began on 20 September 2004.
 
In 1994, he was Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Army. His co-defendants are General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, former Chief of Staff of the National Gendarmerie, Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye and Captain Innocent Sagahutu, former head of an elite battalion stationed in Kigali.
 
Father Greindl will be cross-examined next Monday by the prosecutor. Meanwhile the proceedings were adjourned due to the lack of a new witness.
 
AT/PB/MM

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