A new court case on Genocide against Tutsi is going on in France which is meant to last at least two months full of strong revelations in the tragedy that befell Rwanda and cost more than one million innocent lives in three consecutive months of April, May, June and early July 1994.
The case involves a suspect Philippe Hategekimana 67, Rwandan naturalized French (since 2005) under the name of Philippe Manier and the prosecution at the French Court of Assise.
This former chief warrant officer at the Gendarmerie of Nyanza, in the prefecture of Butare (southern Rwanda) during the Genocide, was famously known under the name Biguma.
He was arrested in March 2018 in Yaoundé-Cameroon and extradited to France, then indicted and placed in pre-trial detention the following year.
He is accused of genocide, crimes against humanity and participation in a group for the preparation of Genocide crimes.
More precisely, Hategekimana is accused to have participated in the erection of two roadblocks which intended to control and assassinate Tutsi civilians. Hundreds of Tutsi indeed were assassinated at these spots, according to the prosecution.
He is further accused of assassination of the burgomaster of Ntyazo, Narcisse Nyagasaza and the massacre of Tutsi who had taken refuge at Nyabubare and Nyamure hills of Rwabicuma and Muyira sectors of Nyanza district respectively.
This is on top of an alleged participation in several meetings aimed at preparing or coordinating the crimes.
In a press release before the trial, the French national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office (Pnat) indicated that the massacre cost lives of 300 Tutsi and 10,000 Tutsi at Nyabubare and Nyamure hills respectively.
At the meeting to prepare the trial on May 10, already, the prosecution, the defense and even the presiding judge promised that the case will involve strong emotions, thus a warning to parties in the trial, especially the witnesses to get ready and to know to control their emotions because “violent scenarios will most likely be described.”
I am not the person you are looking for
As in any court case, at the trial kick off, the defence and their client played the first card, that of identity, alleging that the person in front of the court, was not the same person the prosecution was talking about.
The defence played around the name of the alias of their clients, arguing that “Biguma was found guilty, of Genocide offenses, but Phlippe Hategekimana was acquitted by Gacaca Court.”
However, the defendant later on admitted to being Biguma, a name he got while in military training back in Rwanda.
After this, the other big question was around his naturalisation which he obtained after giving a wrong name of Philippe Manier, instead of Philippe Hategekimana.
The wrong identity, he said, he invented while still in a refugee camp in Kashusha-South Kivu of
“You used a wrong identity to get the nationality of France while taking the name Manier?” asked the presiding judge, to which he responded: “Yes. At first, to obtain refugee status, we needed a convincing document.”
Audition of Testimonies
In this trial where more than 90 witnesses could be heard, already the witnesses of the context are being heard, and as earlier promised, they are sharing strong testimonies.
They even include Western Citizens and Rwandan citizen who were in Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi. Even the foreigners, can share the places where Interahamwe militia were the most brutal with mutilation of women, rape among others.
Several witnesses include researchers, historians among other people who did not just see one incident of Genocide, but many, and also did more research on the background that led to the Genocide tragedy in Rwanda.
The list also includes former leaders in the Rwanda military and gendarmerie and officials under the Juvenal Habyarimana’s regime
One of the witnesses, Hélène Dumas 41, a Doctor in social sciences and specialist on Genocide against Tutsi went as far as sharing a story of a girl who was obliged to feed on blood after starving.
Hélène understands quite everything in the Genocide, and even, Rwanda’s reconciliation’s home-grown solutions and recovery efforts, to an extent that she is even able to explain ‘Gacaca jurdictions’ from its etymology.
Of all things that were said, some witnesses were direct to mention the name Philippe Hategekimana as a person who was involved in the Genocide, and yesterday, as the presiding judge asked the defendant what he would add, he was prompt to say.
“Everything they said is false.”
Hategekimana’s defence include Me Emmanuel Altit, Alexis Guedj and Fabio Lhote.