Former employee heard genocide confession
31 May 2005
BRUSSELS – A former employee of one of the Rwandan businessman on trial for war crimes claims he was sacked for marrying a woman from the Tutsi tribe.
Etienne Nzabonimana, 53, is being tried in Brussels, along with half-brother Samuel Ndashyikirwa, 43, for allegedly playing a key role in the slaughter of 800,000 people – mainly Tutsis – in their country in 1994.
A big beer wholesaler in Kibungo, Nzabonimana is suspected of having given orders to the Interhamwe – the extremist hutu militia, attending meetings where the killings were planned, lending vehicles to the militia for the genocide trips and giving them free beer on their return.
Nzabonimana was also present at a number of the attacks, say prosecutors.
News agency Belga reported that on Monday afternoon, a former barman and chauffeur for Nzabonimana told the court that he used to spend his days in a bar with the Interahamwe.
He said it was there that he heard his former boss and his men boasting of their crimes. In particular, he said they talked of the murder of a man called Gatete, whose daughter testified in Brussels on Monday morning.
The employee also said Nzabonimana and his friends were annoyed that they couldn’t find Annanie Simugomwa, a Tutsi who also gave evidence in court on Monday morning.
The worker claimed he was sacked by his boss when he married a Tutsi. When asked whether he had been worried about the attacks and the boasts of his ex-boss and his men, the worker told the court he felt he had nothing to fear “because I am a Hutu.”
“We were told that when Hutus were married to Tutsis, they would kill our wife but not us,” he said.
In his original statement, the worker had said that his wife had been killed, however, in court – when questioned – he claimed his wife died of an illness.
“I found her after the war, but she was sick,” he said. “I don’t know what she died from. I’m not a doctor. I wasn’t told what was the matter with her.”
Michele Hirsch, a lawyer representing one of the civil parties in the case, said of the witness: “Clearly we are dealing with a man who took part in the killings, whose wife was tortured and died, but these contradictions shouldn’t hide the facts : the witness was present when Nzabonimana gave the order to kill Gatete and when he said he was sorry he couldn’t find Simugomwa.”
The defence lawyers, however, argued the worker was an unreliable witness whose story was riddled with contradictions. They pointed out that the man had been sued by his former boss, and convicted, for stealing money.
Subject: Belgian news