31.10.07 - ICTR/BIKINDI - SIMON BIKINDI ON THE STAND TO DEFEND HIS SONGS

  Arusha, 31 October 2007 (FH) - The Rwandan singer Simon Bikindi accused, through his songs, of having incited genocide, began Wednesday to testify on his own behalf before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
2 min 11Approximate reading time

The 53 year-old artist is also accused of making an agreement in order to commit genocide, genocide or complicity to genocide, murder and persecution.

The accused songs are Twasezereye Ingoma Ya Cyami (We Said Good-Bye to the Monarchy) performed for the first time in 1987, during the celebrations for the 25th anniversary of independence, Akabyutso (The Little Awakening) and Impuruza (Warning) composed in 1993.
 
In the first song, Twasezereye Ingoma Ya Cyami, Bikindi fustigates the monarchy that was overthrown in 1959, celebrates the end of feudalism and colonization and sings about recovering independence in 1962. In the text, he speaks about Bene Gahutu (The Sons of Gahutu), which is interpreted by the prosecution as a call to unit Hutus against Tutsis.
 
"In fact, the Hutus suffered more (than the Tutsis) from the clientalist system" in force under the Tutsi monarchy, explained Bikindi. To denounce the bad practices of feudal monarchy is not synonymous to hate Tutsis, he explained.
 
In "Akabyutso", he expresses his hatred of the stingy Hutus, Hutus with short memory, Hutus who scorn other Hutus...
 
"It is a cry of revolt, I revolt against mine, all this world which lost the sense of life", explained Bikindi, specifying that the song was inspired to him by the many attacks of the 1992-1993 period in Rwanda.

The prosecution supports, for its part, that these Hutus who the artist hates are those who are suspected of being accessories to Tutsis.
 
In the last song, Bikindi speaks about splits within the "Sons of the Father of the Farmers", which the prosecution still presents as a call to unit Hutus against Tutsis, traditionally regarded as farmers. The defendant stated that this song represents rather "a call for help". "I say to all Rwandans that the country is heading towards disaster", he said, stressing that he calls for elections to put an end to the war.
 
Dressed in traditional attire, Bikindi lengthily explained himself.  He also pointed out that he was also the author of the song "Amahoro" composed towards the end of 1993 and in which he sings explicitly about peace and which he performed an extract before the chamber. "I need peace, you need peace, we have all need peace in Rwanda (...) peace is not produces by industry", he sang, in Kinyarwanda.
 
At the beginning of his testimony, he recounted his course, indicating to have inherited "the love of music" from his parents. He evoked "the talent" of his mother who was a singer, dancer and narrator. Griote, she was invited to the popular festivals while his father, a blacksmith, played the Rwandan sitar, in his free time. Evoking the death of his associate, a Tutsi with which he had launched the "dynamic ad" on Radio Rwanda, assassinated in 1994, he did not hide his emotions.

The defendant will continue his testimony Thursday. Bikindi appears before a chamber presided by Argentinian Judge Inés Weinberg de Roca, assisted by the Cameroonian Florence Rita Arrey and the Czech Robert Fremr.
 
The prosecution rested its case on 22 February 2007 after the testimony of 20 witnesses. The trial began on 18 September 2006.
 
ER/PB/MM

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