Testimony by survivor of Rwanda’s genocide resumes

Posted Feb. 24, 2012, at 6:44 p.m.

CONCORD, N.H. — A Rwandan woman who survived the 1994 genocide said she never mentioned the name of a New Hampshire woman charged with lying about her role in it during a decade of investigations because no one asked her.

Beatrice Munyenyezi, 41, of Manchester faces deportation if convicted of lying on documents that paved the way for her to come to New Hampshire with her three daughters as refugees and obtain citizenship in 2003. On those documents she denied any involvement in the genocide and stated she was not affiliated with any political parties in Rwanda.

Witness Esperance Kayange testified she saw Beatrice Munyenyezi — armed with a gun — at a roadblock where Tutsis were killed by Hutu militia. She also testified that Munyenyezi was with the militia when they came to a school and took away Tutsis to rape and kill.

During cross-examination by Munyenyezi’s lawyer Friday, Kayange said she made a mistake when she told federal investigators last year that she also saw Munyenyezi come into Butare’s equivalent of city hall where Tutsis were being held and instruct the militia to kill the men and rape the women.

“I meant Pauline,” Kayage testified, referring to Munyenyezi’s mother-in-law, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko. “I was mistaken.”

But Kayage maintained she had seen Munyenyezi with Hutu militia on two occasions at a school where Kayage stayed for a number of days.

“They would take people to be killed and take women and young girls to be raped,” Kayange said, through an interpreter.

Kayage has been interviewed by numerous investigators since 1997, when officials with the International Criminal Tribune on Rwanda questioned her. She testified for 10 days at the ICTR in Tanzania against Munyenyezi’s husband— Arsene Shalom Ntahobali. She also gave statements to Canadian investigators in 2002 and 2003 and testified at a war crimes trial in that country in 2007.

She testified Friday she never once mentioned Munyenyezi’s name during those inquiries.

“No one asked me about Beatrice,” Kayange said.

. Ntahobali and his mother, were sentenced by the ICTR to life in prison last June for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes of violence. Ntahobali was also convicted of rape based on Kayange’s testimony.

Kayange testified Friday in U.S. District Court in Concord that Ntahobali raped her twice in the Butare government building, where Tutsis were also being held.

Kayange was argumentative with defense attorney Mark Howard during portions of her cross-examination, which lasted nearly three hours. She frequently answered with “I don’t recall” when he questioned her about statements that conflict with her earlier testimony and interviews.

Munyenyezi lived in a hotel in Butare owned by her husband’s prominent family, and the roadblock in front of that hotel was described last year by a panel of judges of the ICTR as reputedly being “one of the most terrifying roadblocks in Butare…the site of numerous beatings, rapes and killings of members of the Tutsi ethnic group.”

Kayange testified Friday she was taken to the basement of the hotel and saw women being raped. She said that moments after denying she had ever been in the hotel.

“You have never said that before in your life,” Howard challenged her, noting that she hadn’t mentioned it in her testimony before the ICTR.

“I don’t recall,” she replied.

Kayange was the first witness against Munyenyezi, and federal prosecutors cast her as a major one.

The third day of the trial Friday ended part way through the testimony of Timothy Longman, director of African studies at Boston University who has researched and written extensively on the Rwanda genocide. He is taking the jury of eight men and four women through Rwanda’s history and class strife leading up to the three months of genocide in 1994.

Longman estimates that up to 700,000 people died during the genocide but says it’s impossible to pin down a number. He estimates 100,000 or more took part in the rapes and killings.

“It was so terrible, so disruptive,” Longman said.

Munyenyezi has been incarcerated since her arrest in June 2010. Her lawyers told jurors in opening statements she played no role in the genocide and stayed inside the hotel, pregnant with twins and caring for her year-old daughter. Her daughters, now 19 and 17, were in court Thursday and Friday.

Testimony in the trial, expected to last from four to six weeks, resumes Monday.

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