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11.05.07 - ICTR/WEEKLY SUMMARY - EX - MINISTER BIZIMUNGU CALLS A POLITICAL SCIENTIST IN HIS DEFENSE

  Arusha, 11 May 2007 (FH) – The former Minister of Health, Casimir Bizimungu, called this week in his defense a political scientist, introduced as an expert in the analysis of political speeches. Member of the interim government that was in place during the genocide of 1994, Bizimungu is on trial with three of his colleagues before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The Prosecutor alleges that the speeches made by the members of the government incited the massacre of approximately a million Tutsis during a period of three months. The defendants are pleading not guilty. The first to present his defense in this trial, in progress since November 2003, Bizimungu is calling Eugene Shimamungu, a Rwandan linguist living in France who specializes in political communication and speech analysis, to testify on his behalf. Shimamungu has already testified as a defense expert in several trials at the ICTR, including that of Colonel Théoneste Bagosora, a former cabinet director at the Ministry of Defense judged alongside three other high ranking officers. Shimamungu wrote an expert report entitled: "Thematic Analysis the Speeches and Messages of the Rwandan Interim Government (April - July 1994) and Some Previous Texts that Marked the History of Rwanda". He should, notably, analyze the speeches made during this period by the interim President, Theodore Sindikubwabo, who is presumed dead, and his Prime Minister, Jean Kambanda, sentenced to the life in prison in 1998 by the ICTR. The expert witness explained that the interim government had fixed itself the priority of re-establishing order and safety, the continuation of contacts with the FPR (former rebels) for the set up of the transitional government as soon as possible, to stop the famine which prevailed in certain regions of the country and to take care of the return of people displaced by the war and their goods. According to Shimamungu, the speeches of the members of the interim government were consistent: ask the population "to remain calm and to take care of the goods and the lives of others, to help the police forces to help retain the security of Rwanda and of all its inhabitants". He stated "that the fact of repeating it indicates that it is major message to the nation". Bizimungu called Shimamungu to testify to contradict the testimony of the American historian and human rights activist Alison Des Forges, quoted by the prosecutor. Alison Des Forges had, notably, declared that the Kinyarwanda was a "sophisticated" language and that the leaders incited the massacres while using a "coded" language. Shimamungu contradicted this assertion.  "Kinyarwanda is a Bantu language of which the structure is identical to that of neighbouring languages spoken in central Africa", he stated. "One cannot say that it is more complicated than the neighbouring languages like the Kihaya (western Tanzania) or the Kihunde (eastern Democratic Republic of Congo)", added the linguist. Shimamungu added that "there is not one characteristic which would be innate of Kinyarwanda with regards to the transmission of orders". The expert declared that in the political speeches that he had analyzed, he had not found subtle or coded messages.  "In the speeches which I analyzed, I did not note anything of such. But the Kinyarwanda, like other languages, can pass coded messages. But one needs an understanding between the speaker and the receiver. If there is not such an understanding, the message is not understood. It would be as if the speaker was speaking a language that the receiver does not understand ". The speeches of the members of the interim government were generally received by the population by radio, which excludes, normally, a general popular understanding of codes. Shimamungu continues his testimony on Monday. Bizimungu, who he quoted, is a co-defendant with the former ministers of Trade, Justin Mugenzi, Foreign Affairs, Jerome Bicamumpaka, and Public Services, Prosper Mugiraneza. Apart from the trial of the four former ministers, the Tribunal held hearings in those of four high ranking officers of the former Rwandan army, including two commanding officers, and in the Butare group (southern Rwanda) which relates to six defendants. In the two cases, the judges are also hearing witnesses for the defense. Butare started in June 2001. The fourth co-defendant is about to finish his defense. The trial of the officers, the second of this nature at the ICTR, started in September 2004. He is the first of the four accused to present his witnesses. Next week, in addition to the trials currently in progress, Tharcisse Renzaho should start, on Thursday, to present his defense. AT/PB/MM© Hirondelle News Agency

2 min 53Approximate reading time

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