Arusha, 17 June 2009 (FH) - The first prosecution witness in the first ever re-trial of former Rwandan military officer, Lt. Col. Tharcisse Muvunyi, told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Tuesday that the accused used  Rwandan proverbs to incite Hutus to kill Tutsis.

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The accused, added the witness, insisted that Tutsis, be male or female, had to be slaughtered to death if they were married to Hutus.

Led in Examination-in-Chief by ICTR Prosecution Senior Counsel, Charles Adeogun Phillips, protected witness code-named "FBX "to shield his true identity for security reasons, explained that the defendant uttered the words at a public meeting in Gikore trading centre in Nyaruhengeri commune, Butare prefecture, south Rwanda in May 1994.

The witness who claimed to have attended the meeting, further elaborated that the accused also called upon Hutus who sheltered or protected Tutsis should  also be killed along with them, reminding the Kinyarwanda adage : ‘'If a snake rounded itself on a calabash you cant kill it without breaking the calabash itself.''

Making his opening statement, Phillips pointed out: ‘'these proverbs were understood by his audience as a call on the Hutus to exterminate all the remaining Tutsi civilians in the area (Gikore).''

According to the prosecution, the meeting, which was attended by between 60-80 people, was mostly made up of local Hutu population and militia. The accused allegedly did so in his capacity as the Commandant of the Senior Military Officers' College (ESO) based in Butare, a position he held between  April 7 to end of May 1994.

The particular significance of Muvunyi's speech, Phillips explained, was the use of Kinyarwanda proverbs which contained inflammatory language such as referring to the Tutsis as ‘'inyenzi'' (cockroaches) or inzoka (snakes).

The prosecution is expected to field a total of six witnesses out whom five would be factual witnesses and a social linguistic expert, Evariste Ntakuritimana.

The accused was earlier found guilty of genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and other inhuman acts by the court of first instance and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment on September 12, 2006 but the penalty was cancelled by the Appeal Court and ordered a retrial on one count.

The appellate judges ordered a new trial for direct and public incitement to commit genocide on August 29, 2008 particularly on the speech made by the accused at the Gikore commercial centre

According to the Chamber's schedule, the new trial is expected to be completed two weeks after the commencement of the hearing.

If found guilty he would not be sentenced to more than 25 years as was the case in his previous penalty.

The trial continues on Thursday.


© Hirondelle News Agency