Appeal hearing of former Habyarimana's aide starts

The Special Chamber of the High Court yesterday finally started hearing an appeal filed by the prosecution against the acquittal of Dr Runyinya Barabwiliza, who used to be the foreign affairs advisor of former President Juvenal Habyarimana.

The Special Chamber of the High Court yesterday finally started hearing an appeal filed by the prosecution against the acquittal of Dr Runyinya Barabwiliza, who used to be the foreign affairs advisor of former President Juvenal Habyarimana.

The appeal was filed immediately after Huye Intermediate Court cleared Runyinya of genocide charges four years ago but had been languishing in the corridors of the judiciary. In the meantime, Runyinya was set free as he awaited his appeal hearing.

He had been accused of three counts; masterminding genocide, forming a criminal gang and distributing arms to the Interahamwe militia.

“Runyinya was among people who wrote to the Minister for Defence in 1992 requesting him to establish groupe de defence civile (civil defense unit) that later morphed into the interahamwe militia. This was clear evidence that he took part in the planning,” said the prosecutor, Gaspard Rudatinya.

“In several letters to Habyarimana, Runyinya proposed to authorise civilians to mount roadblocks and conduct operations in their communities. These activities are the clear face of Genocide. Runyinya’s advice was approved and Habyarimana made an announcement on February 9, 1993 calling on the masses to support the military, ” the prosecutor added.

During the hearing, yesterday, prosecution argued that between 1993 and 1994, Runyinya organised various meetings in Huye to mobilise Interahamwe to exterminate the Tutsi and also created a group of eminent Hutus under the name ‘Groupe de Reflexion’ (Think tank) which allegedly planned the Genocide.

The prosecutor added that it was through Runyinya’s confidential letters that he advised Habyarimana to exterminate Tutsi.

Runyinya, however, pleaded not guilty to all the charges. His lawyer, Protais Mutembe, insisted the prosecution presents evidence proving that his client was indeed planning genocide in the letter to Habyarimana.

Before the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Dr Runyinya, a PhD holder in Land Management from the University of Gembloux, Belgium, was the Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture at the National University of Rwanda. He was also a lecturer, researcher, international consultant and politician.

At the same time, he also served as the chairman of the then ruling party, MRND, in the former Butare Prefecture between 1993 and 1994 and as a Foreign Affairs Advisor to President Habyarimana, and closely followed the peace negotiations between the then government and RPF-Inkotanyi.

During the April-July 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Dr Runyinya was in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, but prosecutors argue that what happened was a consequence of his planning.

The trial is expected to resume today with the defence making its submissions.

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