ARUSHA 29 May 2002 (Internews) Arsene Shalom Ntahobali ordered ‘Interahamwe’ militiamen to kill ethnic Tutsi refugees at the Butare governor’s office during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, a prosecution witness today alleged before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
The witness — identified only as “SJ” — told the judges hearing the so-called “Butare Trial” that during one incident, Ntahobali arrived at the governor’s office in a vehicle, accompanied by militiamen. “He [Ntahobali] told the Interahamwe to spare no one,” she claimed.
The Interahamwe was the youth wing of the Movement of the Republic for National Development (MRND), the party that led a coalition government during the April-June 1994 violence. Ntahobali was a militia leader in Butare during the genocide.
SJ is the 12th prosecution witness in the trial for six defendants, the largest case in progress before the tribunal. All six are from Butare Province, one of the last areas to succumb to the 1994 violence.
The witness testified that the refugees who had gathered at the governor’s office were loaded onto a vehicle and taken to Kabutare, also in Butare, where Interahamwe hacked them to death using machetes, nail-studded clubs and knives.
“The refugees were hurled into a vehicle like bags of beans,” SJ alleged.
During her main evidence yesterday, SJ said that she saw Ntahobali’s mother, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, a former minister for family and women’s affairs, at the governor’s office, and claimed that the former minister also asked the militiamen “to clean up the governor’s office.”
“She went inside the governor’s office for about 15 minutes. When she came out, she told Sylvain Nsabimana, Butare governor, that the place is dirty. ‘When I come again I don’t want to see the dirt [referring to the refugees],'” SJ claimed.
“She [Nyiramasuhuko] sounded very angry when she ordered Nsabimana [to clear the dirt],” SJ told the court.
Led by Gregory Townsend of the United States, SJ told the court that soon after Nyiramasuhuko left, governor Nsabimana, also accused, ordered the refugees taken behind the governor’s office.
Another witness — identified only as “TK” — completed her weeklong testimony yesterday. TK testified mainly against Ntahobali, whom she claimed abducted Tutsi women from the governor’s office to be raped.
The other defendants in the trial are: Elie Ndayambaje, a former mayor of Muganza commune, Alphonse Nteziryayo, a former governor of Butare and Joseph Kanyabashi, a former mayor of Ngoma.
The trial is held before Trial Chamber II of the ICTR, comprising Judges William Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Winston Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho and Arlette Ramaroson of Madagascar.