Recently one of the many men held by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Simon Bikindi was brought before the court of justice. He is accused of various crimes that he committed during the 1994 Tutsi genocide. In fact a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) urged that a life imprisonment be imposed on Simon Bikindi, because the musician committed “direct and public incitement to commit genocide through his songs “.
What was so interesting however is that he had a lawyer who had enough courage to say that his client was an innocent person who saved many Tutsis and their families.
Taking the floor, the defence attorney protested Bikindi’s innocence, saying “I have no doubt that the judges have realised that they have, before them, an innocent person. I feel extraordinary strength”, he said, smiling.
You need to have a strong heart to utter such words in defence of a criminal like Bikindi. Such is the most trying part of being a lawyer! He has to defend his client who in turn pays him handsomely and that is all. He does not mind (or he minds) about his conscience, but only some dollars he ultimately gets after defending the client.
Bikindi is someone I would classify in category one of those who committed the genocide in Rwanda. Category one encompasses all those who planned and led the propaganda that saw more than one million dead under unimaginable torture.
The first time I heard of Bikindi, was when I visited a friend of mine who was listening to a recorder and ‘fortunately’ it was one of Bikindi’s song playing.
I heard bizarre words in form of a song; Nangabahutu, nangabahutu ( I hate Hutus, I hate Hutus)…, and I felt like going back to exile because I just could not imagine such words in my ears immediately after the genocide.
I was only being naïve and my friend who laughed me off, asked me to listen to the second tune and there I was; Mbwirabumva…, Mbwirabumva… (I tell those who can conceptualise what I mean), there followed another song entitled, Twasezereye Ingoma Ya Cyami (We Said Good-Bye to the Monarchy) and by this time I was tight lipped.
I came to my senses and realised that Bikindi was a commander of the forces and militias that were busy killing Tutsis on the ground. He commanded them using radios and news papers, like any well-trained commander would do when fighting an enemy.
He was there to give them a psychological confidence. Remember the killers had done a lot of it and some did not know where, how and when to stop the killings.
So whenever they relaxed, he would push them into full scale massacres. The militias had heard news that the RPA/RPF was approaching and they feared that they could be caught unawares.
The militias had poor communication and had to rely on orders from Bikindi and his colleagues of radio RTLM. He was a share holder of RTLM and he never ventured into the business by accident. He knew the ‘dividends! He was a great strategist in the whole process of planning and implementing the Tutsi genocide.
Most of his songs did not only command but also helped other extremists to ponder the next way forward. The songs were meant to help Hutu extremists to internalise the ten Hutu commandments that sounded so complex for the peasants to understand properly and later on implement them.
Furthermore, Bikindi dramatised the ugly killings of the Tutsis, using his songs and many militias danced (physically) when his songs were played.
Some Hutu men were so reluctant when it came to killing their Tutsi women and children, but under the influence of Bikindi’s songs they went ahead and killed them. His lawyer therefore had no alternative but to lean against the strong wall of the profession and defend him.