Joseph Ntawangundi, the assistant of Victoire Ingabire, leader of the yet-to-be registered political party FDU-Inkingi, who pleaded guilty to Genocide and was sentenced by a Gacaca Court to 17 years in prison, Thursday lost his appeal.
In a stunning twist of events, Ntawangundi, who had earlier vehemently denied his participation in the Genocide prostrated before the Gacaca Court of Appeal seeking for a lighter sentence.
In an interview with The New Times, Noel Ndabikunze, the head of Gacaca Court of Appeal in Rukira Sector, Ngoma District, said that Ntawangundi’s guilty plea and consequently asking for a lighter sentence came a little too late.
“During his appeal for a lighter sentence, Ntawangundi actually knelt before the court and admitted having personally overseen the killing of the 6 people he had earlier denied and two others,”
“He particularly pleaded guilty to all the accusations levelled against him and even accepted that all the evidence given against him was true, but the court reminded him that his willingness to accept the crime came a little too late, thereby upholding his 17-year sentence the previous Gacaca court had handed him,” Ndabikunze said.
Ntawangundi who had promised to tell all during the appeal, dramatically confessed before the court having ordered for the hunting and killing of eight people, among them a teacher at Agro-Veterinary school of Gitwe (EAVE) and his young brother.
New twist in the case
As the case proceeded, Ntawangundi told the appeals court that he was prevented from telling the previous Gacaca court the whole truth by an earlier agreement by all Genocide deniers, most of whom are linked to FDLR, never to accept the Gacaca courts.
He added that it was in the same spirit that even after returning to Rwanda, that he continued to deny all his charges because he did not consider the Gacaca courts credible.
The convict however added that after listening to witnesses, including his own partner with whom they had a 15-year old child, he realized he had no other place to hide the truth, but rather ask for forgiveness.
“From now on, I completely disassociate myself from that view that does not accept the Gacaca courts from the people who oppose the RPF government,” said Ntawangundi.
The New Times on the 6th of February 2010 broke the story of how Ntawangundi was a wanted Genocide fugitive who in 2007, was sentenced in absentia to 19 years in prison by a Gacaca Court. This was after he came into the limelight following a scuffle at Kinyinya Sector which involved Victoire Ingabire.
Supported by Ingabire, he aggressively denied the accusations, labelling them politically motivated, and claiming that he was out of the country when the Genocide was taking place.
Later though, he pleaded guilty before Gitwe Gacaca court, he wrote a letter in which he admitted the charges and asked for forgiveness from the court, for wasting its time by disowning his identity and even sought for forgiveness from the woman he abandoned at Benaco refugee camp in Tanzania.
Ntawangundi had disowned the woman with whom he has a 15-year old daughter, in court, claiming that he did not know her.
The former Principal of EAVE-GITWE, an agro veterinary college, was arrested in February after featuring in the news media, following a fracas he and Ingabire were involved in at Kinyinya Sector in Gasabo District.
Ingabire, immediately went on the warpath, accusing the government of using Gacaca as a tool to suppress political opposition.
In a press statement titled; “New Times, a judge and jury, exploiting forged Gacaca evidence, to make more victims”, Ingabire attacked The New Times accusing it of maligning her by using what she described as fabricated evidence against Ntawangundi, an innocent man, “who was not in the country during the Genocide”.