Simon Bikindi, a well known musician in Rwanda before the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis, was convicted of incitement to genocide and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his role in the hate campaign against the Tutsi that led to the Genocide.
Simon Bikindi was born on September 28, 1954 in Rwerere, prefecture of Gisenyi, in Rwanda.
On top of being a composer, singer and director of the Irindo ballet, he was a public servant in the ministry of Youth and Sports, as well as a member of the MRND (Mouvement Républicain National pour le Développement et la Démocratie; (National Republican Movement for Development and Democracy).
At the beginning of the 1990s, Simon Bikindi allegedly contributed to a media campaign organised by the government, which was designed to encourage hate against the Tutsi people.
In particular, he allegedlly composed and performed songs aimed at the Interahamwe (MRND youth groups) and the civilian population in order to encourage them to kill Tutsis. His works were widely aired by the Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines.
His songs were described as having “elliptical lyrics and catchy tunes”, mixing English, French, and Kinyarwanda combining rap-style texts with traditional folk song melodies and he used them effectively for his evil purposes.
Bikindi left the country a few days before the beginning of the Genocide, but returned later in June. It has now been proved beyond reasonable doubt that he was associated with the extremist Interahamwe militia and publicly urged Hutus to exterminate all Tutsis in June 1994. After the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) takeover, he fled the country.
During the Genocide, he allegedly recruited members for the Interahamwe militia in the prefecture of Gisenyi, trained and supervised them. He also personnally ordered the execution of Tutsis.
Simon Bikindi was arrested in Leiden, Netherlands, on July 12, 2001 and transferred to the UN penitentiary quarter of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha.
His works spread the hate campaign against Tutsi that led to the 1994 genocide. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda found Mr. Bikindi guilty of using a public-address system along roads of Rwanda in June 1994 to call on Hutu to rise up and exterminate the Tutsis.
The panel of judges said some of Mr. Bikindi’s songs had played a role in a propaganda campaign to promote contempt for the Tutsi population, and to incite Hutu to attack and kill Tutsi. Mr. Bikindi, 54, was the first entertainer to be found guilty of a genocide-related charge.
In 1994, Mr. Bikindi was rated as the country’s most famous musician. He sang, played several instruments, wrote intense lyrics and led a dance troupe.
He also acted as a cheerleader at Hutu government rallies and has been described as “a strong presence at an influential government radio station.”
During the trial, prosecutors singled out three of Mr. Bikindi’s popular rap lyrics promoting ethnic hatred, which they said had been widely broadcast and were sung by mobs as they killed their victims.