Arusha, November 4, 2010 (FH) - An eye witness of massacres at Nyange parish in Kivumu Commune, Kibuye prefecture (Western Rwanda), Thursday claimed that former mayor Grégoire Ndahimana colluded with parish priest Athanase Seromba to exterminate Tutsis who sought refuge at the church after the death of president Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994.

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"Had Ndahimana not come to the parish to hold discussions with Seromba, the church (where several Tutsis had gathered) would have not been brought down," the witness code named CBK to protect his identity told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

He claimed that Tutsi refugees were attacked and later killed as a result of the discussions held between April 12 and 16, 1994. According to him, Ndahimana, who was the mayor of the commune, had administrative powers to prevent perpetrators of the massacres, while Seromba had spiritual powers to prevent his faithful from committing such crime.

"Had those two people put hands together such events would have not happened. They colluded to bring about the destruction of the church. They collaborated to destroy the church," said the witness when cross-examined by Ndahimana's co-counsel, Wilfred Nderitu.

Ndahimana is currently facing before the Tribunal charges of genocide or complicity in genocide, in the alternative and extermination as crime against humanity. The prosecution has indicted him for, among others, failure to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such kind of acts or punish perpetrators of the crimes.

Seromba, in his part, is currently serving life imprisonment sentence for the role he played in the massacre.  It is alleged that about 2000 Tutsis, who had sought refuge at the parish between April 7 and 16, 1994, were killed.

Earlier, during examination in chief led by Althea Alexis-Windsor, the witness had claimed that officials of Kivumu commune held several meetings at the parish together with father Seromba to fulfill their mission.

"Given many refugees gathered at the presbytery, on April 12, 1994, the authority and Seromba reached a common agreement to move them to the church on promise that they will be better protected," said the witness, a Hutu, who claimed to be close to the officials when reaching such agreement.

However, he claimed, the refugees while in the church were disarmed and subsequently attacked. According to him, another resolution was passed on April 16, 1994, by the officials to destroy the church, killing all the refugees inside.

The trial continues Friday. Ndahimana was arrested on August 10, 2009 in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). He was transferred to the United Nations Detention Facility in Arusha on August 21, 2009.  He made his initial appearance on September 28, 2009 and pleaded not guilty to all the charges. His trial took off on September 6 this year.


© Hirondelle News Agency