August 25, 2010 (FH)-The first defence witness for Mathieu Ngirumpatse, former President of then Rwandan ruling party, MRND, told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Wednesday that he never heard the defendant delivering speeches with ethnicity and extremist elements prior to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

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The witness, Gustave Mbonyumutwa, who was a student at Belgium School in Kigali between 1991 and 1994, said, "had he (Ngirumpatse) made such speeches would have triggered reactions from my friends and schoolmates who had frequent discussions on political matters at school."

Led by Ngirumpatse's co-counsel Frederic Weyl, the witness told Trial Chamber III presided over by Judge Dennis Byron that within the said period he made frequent visits to the house of the accused as he had a close friendship with one of his daughters, who was also his schoolmate.

According to the witness, he got opportunity of meeting with Ngirumpatse and chat with him.  "I never heard him giving ethnicity or extremist comments," he said. Mbonyumutwa recalled that Ngirumpatse was involved in some cultural activities, including leading a choir at St Michael Church. Such choir, he said, was not made up of any ethnicity divisions.

Cross-examined by prosecuting attorney Don Webster, the witness told the Tribunal that though he was 17 years old during genocide period he was aware of political activities that were going on in Rwanda. Mbonyumutwa, however, said, he had little knowledge of what happened on the massive killings of Tutsi before he left Rwanda in July 1994.

The witness admitted further that he had not discussed politics with Ngirumpatse, but he knew political issues relating to him because not only he was a public figure but also students discussed such matters extensively in school.

Hearing continues Thursday.  In the trial, Ngirumpatse is charged with his party's Vice-President Edouard Karemera for crimes committed by members of their party. The prosecution has indicted them for their superior responsibility as top officials of the party.  Karemera has already completed his defence case.


© Hirondelle News Agency