02.11.07 - ICTR/WEEKLY SUMMARY - BIKINDI THE SINGER, SON OF GRIOTS, DEFENDS HIMSELF

  Arusha, 2 November 2007 (FH) - The week was marked at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) by the testimony of the singer Simon Bikindi, who defended the message conveyed by his songs and refuted the allegations according to which he would have taken part in the massacres during the 1994 genocide.   
2 min 12Approximate reading time

Presenting himself, without shame, as a son of griots, Bikindi stated, at the beginning of his testimony, Wednesday, that his mother, dancer, singer and narrator, participated in all the festivals.
 
"She took me along and encouraged me to sing and dance", reported Bikindi, stressing that his father also had his hobby: the Rwandan sitar.
 
It is thanks to his double talent of musician and theatre actor that Bikindi was hired in 1976, at the end of his high school studies, at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Associative Movement.
 
Parallel to his activities at the ministry, he continued, a singing career, drawing primarily from traditional Rwandan rhythms and songs.
 
After having evoked his life course, he started the first chapter of his defence: the apology for three renowned songs presented by the prosecution as incentives to commit genocide against Tutsis. The song Twasezereye Ingoma Ya Cyami (We Said Good-Bye to the Monarchy) was performed for the first time in 1987, during the 25th anniversary of independence while Akabyutso (The Little Awakening) and Impuruza (The Warning) were composed in 1993.
 
"The common message, is the message of peace, I invite Rwandans to fight for peace", defended Bikindi. The following day, began the second chapter of his testimony, the artist said that he was "annoyed" by the allegations according to which he would have taken part in massacres in his native region of Gisenyi (northern Rwanda) during the genocide.
 
Besides Bikindi, there were other cases on the docket this week; Butare, Government II, Military II and Karemera.
 
In the "Military II" trial, a former prefect of Ruhengeri (northern Rwanda), Basile Nsabumugisha, a prisoner in Rwanda, testified for the defence of the former chief of staff of the army, General Augustin Bizimungu; on trial alongside three other defendants. The witness refuted the allegations according to which the general would have, at a public meeting, in May 1994, at the communal office of Mukingo, thanked the Interahamwe militiamen for the massacres that they had just perpetrated. Mukingo is one of the 16 communes which composed, at the time, the prefecture of Ruhengeri. 
In the "Butare" trial, name of the prefecture where the six accused originate from, the quasi-permanent conflict of interest that opposes some defendants resurfaced Tuesday, the defence of Shalom Ntabohali requested that the chamber limit the testimonies of the next three witnesses of the former Mayor of Ngoma (southern Rwanda), Joseph Kanyabashi. Certain witnesses for the Kanyabashi's defence, a former member of the Social Democratic Party (PSD), accuse not only Ntahobali, but also his mother, the former Minister of the Family and Women's Development, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, who belonged to the presidential party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND).
 
In the "government II" trial, involving four former ministers, the former chief of Rwandan diplomacy, Jérôme Bicamumpaka, continued his defence.
 
The trial of the three leaders of the MRND did not have a hearing during the week due to the illness of a defence counsel.
 
The same trials are scheduled for next week.
 
ER/PB/MM
 
© Hirondelle News Agency