Proceedings in the trial of genocide suspect Seraphin Twahirwa were thrown into near chaos, with the introduction of the suspect’s wife, by the prosecution.
During the Procès verbal, or witness interview, Primitive Uwimana, a genocide survivor had told investigators, that she had been forced into marriage with Twahirwa, who had become notorious for raping Tutsi women, and girls, and threatening to murder their families, if they raised any objections.
She had little choice but to accept the forced marriage, because Twahirwa had threatened to wipe out her family, if they tried to rescue their daughter.
In her court appearance for the prosecution however, she seemed to contradict the earlier statement to the investigators, testifying that the marriage followed a friendship between her and Twahirwa.
The prosecution told the court that their witness had come under intense pressure from Twahirwa, not to testify to the truth.
Dressed smartly, in an orange business suit, Uwimana appeared nervous and distressed by the proceedings. The now fifty-three-year-old during what she described as rape, had resulted in the birth of three children, two girls and a boy, but that she now remains with only one girl in Kenya where she lives. Of the two, one had mental health problems, and simply disappeared, to be followed by his sister. She has no idea where the two children are, although she believes one may be in South Africa.
It is being questioned about the details that seemed to distress Uwimana the most. She asked the court to give her testimony in camera, a request opposed by the prosecution, but enthusiastically received by the defence. Uwimana, who was 18 at the time of the alleged forced marriage, said there was much she could not say publicly, because it involved her relatives.
A row ensued between defence and prosecution lawyers, the defence demanding that Uwimana’s testimony be heard in camera, and the prosecution that it be heard publicly. The prosecution insisted that their witness had been threatened by the defendant, and were ready to produce his mobile telephone, which they say showed that despite the claim that he had not spoken to Uwimana, showed that he had telephoned her on at least a 1000 occasions. Their witness they said was now saying what she was, under extreme duress.
The row between the two opposing sides subsided only when the court’s security intervened, and the judge adjourned the case.
Twahirwa, is accused of having been a prominent leader of the notorious Interahamwe militias, who were at the forefront of the over a million murders of men, women and children, during the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi. He is accused of not only leading the killings, but of directly committing murders and mass rapes, about which he would openly boast. Witnesses have testified that in Karambo, and Kicukiro districts especially, Twahirwa reveled in raping girls and women, boasting of his crime to the victims’ families and husbands, warning them that they would be next to be murdered, if they protested.
Uwimana had earlier referred to Twahirwa’s brutality, as the reason she had to stay with him, if members of her family were to be spared. When the Rwanda Patriotic Forces (RPF) Inkotanyi ended the murders, Twahirwa fled with the rest of the genocidal forces to Goma, in the Democratic Republic of Cong (DRC), taking Uwimana with her. But she managed to separate from him, going to Nairobi, Kenya, where she now lives, with her one child. Twahirwa eventually fled to Belgium.
The case will continue after the judge decides whether Uwimana’s testimony can be heard in camera.