February 7, 2013

Witness recalls NH woman's role in 1994 Rwandan genocide

The Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. – Jurors in the trial of a New Hampshire woman charged with lying about her role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide to obtain U.S. citizenship witnessed the grief Thursday that still resonates with survivors.

Thierry Sebaganwa, who lived in Butare and was 21 when the wholesale slaughter of Tutsis and moderate Hutus began, sobbed uncontrollably when talking of the day a woman told him the Hutu militia had just cut off his mother's head.

Sebaganwa testified that he knew 43-year-old Beatrice Munyenyezi and twice saw her in the uniform worn by leaders of the Hutu militia party, the MRND.

"I saw her wearing the dress and she was pregnant," Sebaganwa said.

He said when the killing of Tutsis intensified in mid-April, he met with other young Tutsi men and they decided they had to find an escape route out of Butare. He was sent to find that route.

"When I came back is when I found everyone had been killed," Sebaganwa said, referring to his family and others. The judge took a break so Sebaganwa could compose himself.

Munyenyezi is not on trial for genocide or other war crimes. She is charged with two counts of lying on U.S. government applications to enter the country and obtain citizenship by denying any role in the genocide or affiliation with any political party.

Defense attorney David Ruoff asked Sebaganwa why he never mentioned Munyenyezi's name in discussions with Canadian investigators in 2000 and 2005. "They did not ask me about her," he replied.

Sebaganwa identified young people -- including Munyenyezi's husband, Aresene Shalom Ntahobali -- in a photograph of him and others having a picnic in a local park in 1991.

Munyenyezi's husband and his mother were convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and sentenced to life in prison in June 2011 for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes of violence. Both were considered high-ranking members of the Hutu militia party that orchestrated brutal attacks against Tutsis. Their convictions are on appeal.


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