Trial of former Prefet of Gikongoro Prefecture during the Genocide against Tutsi Laurent Bucyibaruta who is accused of Genocide crimes proceeds in Paris Criminal Court with shocking revelations.
A female witness aged 55 year old today sent the courtroom into shock, including judges who followed her testimony sometimes tears rolling in their eyes, according to our reporter on ground, Ines Ghislaine Nyinawumuntu.
During the Genocide, she was a veterinary doctor in PDAG, an agriculture project in Nyamagabe, Gikongoro where she met and married her husband also from the same project.
At first, the witness, then mother of four did not know what was trending when hunt of the Tutsi started.
On April 7 in Gikongoro, her family which was near the diocese of Gikongoro would hear about friends going to Murambi expecting safety. They could give them some blankets and clothes to cover their children.
But, the witness knew that none would be safe on a Saturday, when the butchers came to her asking her to test the beef that were to be slaughtered. This was her job as a veterinary doctor.
“When I arrived to the market-I was riding my moto-they yelled at me and I was confused until prefet Bucyibaruta came and I thought he would rescue me,” she said.
“He asked me my address and I explained. He told me: don’t you hear? People don’t need you. Go tell your husband that you should go to Murambi, that’s where we shall protect you.”
The witness returned home and told her husband that they were not safe. The witness was pregnant and needed care.
Thus, the rest of the family went to hide in the bush but for her, she joined a family of the neighbour whose wife was also expectant and they managed to secure a shelter at Gikongoro Diocese.
However, after two days, they were dismissed, allegedly following an order of Prefet Bucyibaruta who said they should go to Murambi. They hesitated and found a way to return home despite all odds.
The whole family hid in one of their houses that was under construction and several other Tutsi joined them before Interahamwe came to attack them.
“They terribly shoot us, threw grenades in us and several injuries were registered,” said the witness.
At this place, something strange happened and the witness started doubting about Bucyibaruta.
“He came to that place, saw my husband who was not injured and said: why weren’t you injured? It means you are the one who threw grenades to the rest,” the witness recalls.
They tried to explain him what happened, in vain.
From that place however, they managed to take the injured people to Kigeme hospital where they found many people seeking medical support. There were also many Tutsi refugees and as soon as they were there, Prefet Bucyibaruta followed them.
He discussed with hospital officials and suddenly, it was ordered that the Tutsi be sent to Murambi.
Meanwhile, Kigeme hospital found it could not handle the cases of injury, thus it referred them to Butare hospital aboard an ambulance.
The witness accompanied them, and, on the way, she realised that her house was on fire.
She got off the ambulance and, as she was figuring out what she could do, she found a pickup with gendarmes that she knew.
She asked for support, and they escorted her home. However, she was surprised that upon arrival, they only supervised the looting at her home under fire.
That to her, was an indication that she could not be safe. She just pretended to go great a neighbour and she asked them what would have happened to her husband who had stayed at home with other Tutsi.
She learnt that he was taken to the brigade on order of Bucyibaruta, while the rest were sent to Murambi.
She thus sneaked into the neighbourhood and reached the main road to Butare where her boss at PDAG found her helplessly.
She told her story to the boss who was a Hutu and they decided to take her to Butare where killings had not yet started.
While in Butare, the witness was taken to a family of friends, but when they saw her, they said they couldn’t offer shelter to cockroaches – inyenzi.
She started wondering until she decided to go to Kabutare hospital to pretend to be a caretaker of patients. Luckily, she found a patient to “take care” of, but this did not last long because after two days, an interahamwe militia came at night to search for her.
He found her and took her to the corridor and told her: “I am coming for you are Tutsi!” The witness refuted it and showed him an ID with mention “Hutu” which she had managed to secure.
For that time, the militia left her, but would come back five minutes later when the witness narrowly escaped to the toilet where she spent the night.
An armed doctor dismisses his patients
The witness spent three weeks in Butare finding a hiding spot here and there and moving to another whenever she suspected that killers would spot her.
At the same time, she still knew that she had a foetus to take care of. Prior to the Genocide, she used to meet her gynaecologist one Dr Munyemana Sostene every Thursday.
One day, leaving other factors constant, she decided to go see him for antenatal care.
“He was a good doctor. That very day, I met other pregnant women and we waited for him for a while. When he came, I was surprised he was armed with a pistol on his hip,” she said.
“He asked us harshly; what are you doing here? And everyone timidly started saying what service we wanted. He entered his office, returned with one more arm but we still pleaded him to help us. He ignored us and left.”
The witness confirmed that no place was safe if the doctor could also refuse to treat patients and get involved into killings.
In all this, she did not have news about Murambi. “In my mind, I had thought that Murambi would be safe. I found Congolease who were on their way back home and followed them. They would show their identities and me, mine of Hutus,” she said.
She headed back to Murambi, but while at a place called Karambi, it was market day. She could not proceed because she feared to be noticed.
In her hideout, she slept in the bush where it rained cats and dogs which worsened her situation.
She waited until late evening and walked to a family she knew so as to get information around Murambi.
The witness understood that everyone in Murambi was killed, including her four children and her husband upon whom a bounty of Rwf 80,000 “was promised to everyone who would bring his head on a plate.”
She told the court that the husband, having been a soldier for one year, they thought he could fight them back.
The witness hid in this family from Karambi until the fall of Gikongoro in the hands of Inkotanyi who rescued her.
After a couple of days, she was fortunate to hear that her sister-in-law survived the Genocide in Kigali. She joined her, stayed with them until she gave birth to her child in October.
“In my home, we live a life of trauma. I thought I had recovered, but my trauma shifted to my child who behaves strangely. He told me that from my womb, he saw all that I was going through,” she told the court which followed the case with shock.
As the witness was giving this testimony, Bucyibaruta who was in a Khaki suit would write in his note book. After filling the note book, the septuagenarian wrote on “post it” papers. He could also underline some points.
Judges would wipe tears every now and then as she described the extreme hate of some hutu against Tutsi in Gikongoro.
“Important officials in that period of time had Tutsi wives (including Bucyibaruta) but they had unprecedented antipathy against the Tutsi,” she said.
Bucyibaruta speaks out
The court gave time to the defence when Bucyibaruta refuted every allegation, especially on the arrest and the killing of the husband of the witness.
“I never took her husband to the brigade and, I never ordered anything against that man,” he said but agreed to know him, because he was a driver at PDAG.
“I used to borrow a car at PDAG whenever mine had a problem, then he could drive me. Actually I know that lady because her family was near my house in Musange contrary to the allegation that I didn’t know her.”
The witness said she was known to Bucyibaruta “just as a lady who drives a moto”, as for my husband, “he just hated him. Hutu extremists hated him because he was once in military.”
Meanwhile, Bucyibaruta claimed that he was the one who took the people who were injured from the witness home to hospital, but claimed he did not follow up the case of the grenade and the person who would have thrown it.
Civil parties asked him why he was that much concerned about the victims, but never followed up to know about the grenade.
In his tired voice, Bucyibaruta claimed: “It was not my job. Actually gendarmerie could not investigate either. They had a lot of work.”