The world was too small for Joseph Ntawangundi to hide in. The hitherto unknown acolyte of Victoire Ingabire, has gained notoriety as each day goes by, thanks to their yet-to-be-registered political party, FDU-Inkingi.
When he first surfaced on the airwaves and on the net, little did he know it would be his undoing. He and his chief, Ingabire, had been involved in a fracas at Kinyinya Sector.
In a bid to spread garner sympathy, Ntawangundi’s photo was posted on the net and name sung on many radios. Ananias Simugomwa was following the news.
“I had not heard of him for many years until he was mentioned on BBC when he got involved in a fight at Kinyinya. I was shocked and I immediately alerted the police that he was wanted by the Gacaca court in our village which had sentenced him to 19 years,” said Simugomwa.
“During the Genocide he killed the children of Rwakayigamba, his workmate. The remains are still there, they were not even given a decent burial. Ntawangundi fled to Benaco between April and June 1994, from where he proceeded to Kenya. Therefore, he should stop confusing people”.
News of his arrest spread like wild fire prompting more witnesses came forward, but this did not stop Ingabire and Ntawangundi’s supporters from claiming that he was innocent and that his arrest was an attempt to distabilise FDU.
They claimed, Ingabire in particular, that Ntawangundi was not in the country during the genocide, but was on a working mission to Sweden on behalf of the International Confederation of Free Trade Union African Regional Organisation ICFTU- AFRO based in Nairobi which employed him in 1992.
But information to the contrary came in the form of the Baptist Church (AEBR) of Rwanda who employed him at the EAV, an Agricultural and Veterinary College in Rukira, currently in the Eastern Province.
In 1993, Pastor Bashaka Faustin was the Legal Representative of AEBR and he remembers well hiring Ntawangundi.
“I did not know him personally, but I knew his wife. She was an active member of our church in Kacyiru. When the husband returned from study in Poland, she came and told us Ntawangundi needed a job, and since the position of EAV was vacant, i gave it to him,” said the pastor.
“In October 1994, I went to inspect the state school, and there i found soldiers of the UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda) who told me that Ntawangundi was in Benaco refugee camp in Tanzania.”
Even the person who helped Ntawangundi to move to his new home remembers him vividly, because the Director of a professional college in such a remote area stuck out like a sore thumb.
“I was a trader in foodstuff based in Rukira. I used to supply a businessman in Kigali called Nkubiri in my Daihatsu truck whiich bore the number plate JB 0667,” said Felician Mbalinde.
“Ntawangundi hired me to transport him and his property when he was going to take up his new job at EAV. I picked him in Kacyiru, just below King Faisal Hospital”.
Faustin Bangumukunzi, was a student at EAV from 1989 up to the Genocide in 1994.
“When I first arrived, the head of the school was Dr. Ntibihebandema, a veterinary doctor. He was succeeded by Dr Crispin, who in turn was replaced by Kambirwa Kitenge Prosper,” narrated Bangumukunzi.
“Joseph Ntawangundi replaced Kambirwa from September 1993 to the April 1994 when the Genocide started. I was not present at the school because we were on holidays; we had just completed our second term.
“It was later that I discovered that Ntawangundi used to make extremist statements espousing the Genocide ideology, but he never came out in the open, possibly because the school was run by the Baptist Church, and most people were very religious and more interested in prayers than in politics”.
It seems Ntawangundi left an unforgettable legacy, as one of the villagers on the hill Cishahayo Vianney, remembers:
“He was well-known as an extremist. There is someone who went to seek a place for his child at the school.
Ntawangundi turned him away violently, telling him that he should wait for his “own kind” who would admit his child. This man is still alive”.
As in many stories of Rwanda in 1994, this has no good ending either. Having left his family in Kigali, Ntawangundi got himself a new bride with whom they have a 15-year old daughter, but for reasons of protecting a minor, we will not identify her mother who still lives in Rukira.
“We fled with him to Benaco and lived in the camp. When he heard that his first wife was in Nairobi. He packed his bags and went to join her, abandoning us in the misery of the camp,” the woman testified.
But Joseph Ntawangundi’s intricate web of lies had an Achilles Heel; records.
When we contacted ICFTU- AFRO, now based in the Togolese Capital Lomé, they pulled the rug right under Ntawangundi’s feet.
The man who claims to have left Rwanda in 1992 to go and work for ICFTU-AFRO in Nairobi, had left a fatal paper trail:
“I found the name of Mr. J. Ntawangundi (I suppose it is him). There was a column indicating ‘starting date’. It was not possible for me to understand the real meaning of the information in the column; I suppose it was the starting date of the coverage of the insurance.
This could be the same date as the starting date of employment, or could be later. Anyway, the ‘starting date’ for him was 1.1.2000,” read an email answering our query.
“I conclude that he was member of staff of ICFTU in Nairobi in 2000 and 2001. I am sorry that I cannot give you more information”.
Information available to The New Times, indicate that during the past few years, Ntawangundi became adept at hiding his true identity, taking on several aliases, from holding fake papers passing his as a Kenyan of the Luo tribe, to a Burundi national by the name of Festus Minani.
Soon immigration authorities in European capitals were onto his case: Sweden, Holland (where he met Ingabire), Belgium and France, turned down his quest for refugee status, but France gave him temporary residence.
Now that his globetrotting has brought him back to square one, at least he remains with a chance.
“His arrest was based on a pending warrant that had been. But for someone who was tried in absentia, he has another chance. If he feels that he is a victim of injustice or a case of mistaken identity as some claim, it is up to him to seek a retrial and bring the necessary proof,” said. Domitile Mukantaganzwa, the Executive Secretry of the National Gacaca Jurisdiction.
His victims were never given half the chance.