BELGIUM: Rwandese genocide survivor talks about her expectations ahead of trial of Rwandan army majorRecord ID: 192845
- Title: BELGIUM: Rwandese genocide survivor talks about her expectations ahead of trial of Rwandan army major
- Date: 20th April 2007
- Summary: (AD1) RWANDA (FILE)(REUTERS) BLUE HELMETS
- Embargoed: 5th May 2007 13:00
- Location: Belgium
- Country: Belgium
- Reuters ID: LVAA729EPAQN7ZGAQB3U96MBVCOW
- Story Text: Belgium will put on trial on Thursday (April 19) the former Rwandan army major it holds responsible for the 1994 murder of 10 Belgian peacekeepers and the Rwandan prime minister they were seeking to protect.
Bernard Ntuyahaga (pronounce Nooyaha'ga), born in 1952, faces 16 counts of murder and three of attempted murder in the early days of the Rwandan genocide following the shooting down of the president's plane on April 6, 1994.
Following the killing of the ten Belgian peacekeepers on April 7, Belgium recalled all its military from Rwanda.
Born in Rwanda, Florida Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira's (pronounce Mookeshimana Ngoolinzira) destiny is intricately linked with Belgium.
She first came to Belgium in 1971 for her studies, and met her future husband, Boniface Ngulinzira, here.
The couple married in 1994, and gave birth to twins in Belgium. They moved back to Kigali where Boniface Ngulinzira became the country's Foreign Minister between 1992 and 1993. The couple had two more children in Rwanda.
Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira says her tragedy is directly linked to the withdrawal of the Belgian peacekeepers from Rwanda. She
The ten Belgian peacekeepers and Rwanda Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana were killed on April 7. That day, Belgian blue helmets escorted the couple and their four children to the Official Technical School of Kicukiro (pronounce Kitchookiro). On April 11, the peacekeepers left the school without protection and three thousand people were killed. Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira said they were twenty survivors, including her and her four children. Her husband was killed there.
''The Belgian Blue helmets evacuated us to the technical school of Kicukiro, and the 11th April, they dropped us. And this, I can't accept. Why ? And then, why did they keep us there ? Why did they evacuate us at all ? At some point, when the Belgian blue helmets refused to take us out, my husband asked them to brought us back home, so we could die at home. They refused,'' Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira described.
Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira said she doesn't know if Ntuyahaga is guilty or not. She will be taking part in the trial as a civil party, and may be called as a witness. She said Belgium should never have called its blue helmets back after the murder of the ten soldiers.
''I would like Belgium to admit that when they decided to call back all the Belgian military based in Rwanda, they sent the Rwandese in a hornet's nest, who were then assassinated, who went through the genocide, in 1994. This, Belgium should admit. For me, it wasn't a solution to call back the Belgium military, even if the ten Belgian blue helmets had been assassinated. And here, I would like to underline that of course I understand the pain of the families of the Belgian Blue helmets, but Belgium should recognize that by calling back the Belgian military, it was no longer the mission for peace it had first offered to do,'' Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira said.
In 2000, the Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt asked for forgiveness for his country's part in failing to prevent the killing of hundreds of thousands of Rwandans in the 1994 genocide.
For Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira, it was a step in the right direction, but says Belgium should consider some kind of compensation to the direct victims of the withdrawal of the Belgian blue helmets. She said she would welcome a personal apology, or some financial compensation.
But she also says she has no rancour towards the Belgium State, and this trial will enable her to complete her mourning period and hopefully put the past behind her.
''Yes, it's hard, but anyway, we haven't forgotten and we live with what we went through in 1994. And I think that reflecting back on that is a new step forward in our mourning,'' Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira hopes.
Mukeshimana-Ngulinzira and her four children left via Goma and Bangui in July 1994. With other women, she is helping widows who stayed in Rwanda, with her association 'Ubutwali-Courage'.
Bernard Ntuyahaga, born in 1952, faces 16 counts of murder and three of attempted murder in the early days of the Rwandan genocide following the shooting down of the president's plane on April 6, 1994.
Belgium has been seeking justice for its murdered troops for 13 years. Judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda dropped genocide and war crimes charges against Ntuyahaga in 1999.
After a prolonged extradition attempt, Ntuyahaga flew to Belgium voluntarily in 2004.
The former major is accused of ferrying the peacekeepers from the prime minister's residence and handing them over to fellow soldiers in a military camp in Kigali, where they were beaten to death, shot or slain with machetes.
Rumours were circulating at the time that the Belgians were responsible for the president's assassination, according to Belgian prosecutors' indictment.
Ntuyaha also stands accused of the murder of Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana who the Belgians had been trying to protect and to escort to give a radio broadcast to the nation.
Ntuyahaga argues that he came by the residence by chance and that he had given a ride to the Belgians at their request.
The trial is due to last at least until June, with 157 witnesses scheduled, including the assassinated prime minister's children. Relatives of murdered soldiers could also be in court.
It is not the first time Rwandans have stood trial in Belgium over the 1994 genocide. Two Catholic nuns, a university professor and a businessman were sentenced in 2001 to between 12 and 20 years for aiding the mass murders.
Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days by the Hutu-led government and ethnic militias.
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