Bucyibaruta trial: Witnesses share chilling testimonies as hearing continues in Paris

Bucyibaruta trial: Witnesses share chilling testimonies as hearing continues in Paris
Bucyibaruta trial: Witnesses share chilling testimonies as hearing continues in Paris

It was a busy week inside the ‘Cour d’Assises de Paris’ as witnesses continued sharing testimonies on the role of former Prefet of Gikongoro Prefecture Laurent Bucyibaruta who is battling the trial on genocide related crimes he allegedly committed in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Witnesses shared testimonies both physically and virtually for those who could not make it to court. It was yet another challenging week as witnesses shared terrible testimonies about the gruesome.

One of the witnesses told the court on Wednesday that he saw ‘prefet’ Bucyibaruta at Kabeza road broke, one of terrible spots where Tutsi were killed. Bucyibaruta was giving instructions for Tutsis who had sought refugees in a catholic parish to go to Murambi where ‘They could be protected’”.

The witness said however that, that was a trick for the leadership to bring all the Tutsi together before they could be killed. Throughout the hearing, witnesses shared horrible testimonies on the gruesome killings that left many, including judges upset.

To some extent, witnesses could fail to share testimonies, held tears so that the judges could opt for giving them time to cool down or immediately asked them questions to answer.

 “I would confirm again that he (Bucyibabaruta) was there during the night when killings started, I was there on my own as well” confirmed a witness who has served his sentence for the Genocide related crimes.

The presiding judge challenged the witness as to why he did not testify so in the previous investigations by French investigators or by investigators from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) but he insisted he did and wondered why that was not recorded.

“I don’t know why the investigators did not record what I said, it seemed they asked questions to influence my testimonies and did not record whatever I said,” he added.

“What we did was terrible and as I always said, we did that under the order of authorities, under no circumstances could we have killed without the order of leaders at prefecture level,” the witness added.

He told the court virtually from Kigali during the Genocide, he heard himself Bucyibaruta saying that the next day was ‘a day for work,’ literally meaning a time to kill Tutsis who were gathered at Murambi Technical school.

At Murambi, thousands of Tutsi had gathered there, waiting hopelessly to be rescued all in vain.

Sources say that in some cases, Tutsis were searched to check whether they had traditional weapons they could use to fight the killers and protect themselves.

The next few days, killers, including armed security officers (gendarmes) and militia started killing the Tutsi.

Several eye witnesses who appeared before the court this week have accused the then leadership at the prefecture were key mobilisers of the killing and in some cases chaired meetings to encourage the killers to kill those who had sought refuge in different places.

The former Gikongoro prefecture is part of the current Nyamagabe district.

For Hildebrand Niyomwungeri, the mayor of Nyamagabe district, Bucyibaruta betrayed the people he was responsible to protect and his fair trial could give peace of mind to genocide survivors.

“Justice gives peace of mind,'' said the mayor. ‘The image of the administration in this area was tarnished by his being in office,’ he added.

Gikongoro was among the most hit area during the genocide.

Its three genocide memorial sites namely Murambi, Cyanika, and Kaduha are home to about 130,000 victims who are buried there. They were all killed under the reign of Bucyibaruta, who was the ‘prefet’ (equivalent to Governor) of Gikongoro from July 1992 through 1994.

Residents, especially genocide survivors will not forget his most hate speech in December 1993 at a local market in which he appealed for financial support to procure weapons to eliminate the 'Tutsi enemy'.

As an active member of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), the then ruling party at the time and the head of Interahamwe militia, he is accused of having ordered police and militia to kill Tutsi in the area he controlled.

Bucyibaruta has vehemently denied all the accusation, saying that he did all he could to protect Tutsi.

He said he appealed for the Gendarmes to protect them but the commandant of that armed group had the last word and failed those who had sought refuge in different places and killed them.

Known as the ‘Butcher of Gikongoro” Bucyibaruta is accused of planning and ordering massacres at different places, including places of worship and schools in the area according to testimonies.