CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — 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 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 he and others having a picnic in a local park in 1991. He said he brought the photograph because “it proves that I know him.”
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 Tutsis. Ntahobali was a leader of the interahamwe — a savage youth wing of the MRND. Their convictions are on appeal.
Prosecutors said in opening statements they began investigating Munyenyezi after she twice testified before the ICTR that there was no roadblock in front the Butare hotel — owned by her husband’s family — where she was living during the genocide. But U.S. Department of Defense satellite photos and several witnesses so far have contradicted that. The roadblocks were used to identify Tutsis by the ethnicity listed on national identification cards.
Sebaganwa said the slaughter escalated after a Hutu MRND party leader in mid-April gave a speech broadcast on the radio calling for the annihilation of the Tutsis and referring to them as “the cockroach.”
Sebaganwa testified in Kinyarwanda, with an interpreter repeating questions and conveying his answers in English.
For the second day in row, U.S. District Judge Steven McAuliffe admonished lawyers to ask fewer questions and get to the point.
“It took more than 45 minutes to get to ‘I saw the roadblock,’” McAuliffe said, referring to the testimony of another Rwanda witness Thursday. “We have to do better than that.”
Testimony resumes Friday.