22 January 2013

Rwanda: Mugesera Starts His Defence

Photo: T. Kisambira/ The New Times
Leo Mugesera (far right) talking to his lawyers in court (file photo).

Genocide suspect Leon Mugesera yesterday denied the word inyenzi (cockroaches) is derogatory as he begun submitting his defence at the Special Chamber of the High Court.

'I was not an Interahamwe, I was not on their command and they were not paramilitary as some sources wrote," he said, responding to the allegation that he provided some ammunitions to a group of interahamwe militia.'

- Genocide sProsecution, that rested its submission last week, has presented audio tapes and transcripts of a 1992 speech attributed to Mugesera. In the speech that the court heard, last week, Mugesera is accused of using the words repeatedly in an address to the locals in the Gisenyi prefecture.

Prosecution avers that the noun was meant to portray the Tutsi as insects that should be exterminated.

Mugesera was charged with inciting the masses to take part in genocide, planning and preparing the genocide, conspiracy in the crime of genocide, torture as a crime against mankind, and inciting hatred among people.

In his defence, Mugesera argued that historians and prosecution against him in Canada established that inyenzi is a name Rwandan refugees gave themselves before they attacked Rwanda in 1959. He argued that inyenzi refers to Rwandan invaders, assailants and their recruits, which include "Hutus, Tutsis and Ugandans."

Explaining the word

The lecturer and former vice president of MRND in Gisenyi prefecture spent the entire morning explaining the noun that was used in the speech he allegedly delivered in Kabaya, Gisenyi prefecture, in November 1992, while addressing the MRND party members, who responded by massacring Tutsis.

The prosecution has referred to scholars and law experts who wrote that in any genocide in the world, perpetrators dehumanise a group they want to eliminate by naming them after animals, which someone can kill and is not held responsible.

They said in the Rwandan context, the perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi used the word cockroaches as one of the tactics to tell people they would get rid of Tutsis.

However, Mugesera cited the late Thomas Kananura, a former staff of IRST, who testified in the Canada trial that inyenzi was a self-deprecating name for Rwandans.

A holder of doctorate in terminology and language management, Mugesera also took time to explain the lexicology of the word 'Interahamwe', which he said, in this context, does not mean people who fight together, but age groups with similar commitment.

Prosecution had expected Mugesera to defend himself against each count, but the suspect chose an evasive approach of explaining linguistics.

Prior to his defence, Mugesera prayed the court brings forth the prosecution witness, arguing that in absence, the witnesses would be influenced, but the court overruled his plea. Mugesera continues his defence today.

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