Prosecutor vs. Simon Bikindi


Simon Bikindi is charged with aiding and abetting the commission of genocide, punishable under Art. 6 (a) and (b) and 25 (3) (c) RS.

Case background: The conflict in Rwanda (1994)

Rwanda, a country in the Great Lakes Region of Africa, gained independence from Belgian colonial rule in 1959. By 1961, the traditional Tutsi-dominated monarchy was abolished. The Rwandan republic was proclaimed and a new President elected, who was a member of the Hutu group. Violent struggles broke out, and many Tutsis fled the country over the following years.

In 1973, following renewed clashes, General Juvénal Habyarimana took over the government by staging a military coup and thus replacing the civil Hutu government with a military Hutu government with himself as president. At the same time, Mr. Habyarimana founded the Mouvement républicain national pour la démocratie et le développement (Republican national movement for democracy and development – MRND) as the unique party in Rwanda.

On 1 October 1990, the armed wing of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front), an exile Tutsi organisation, deserted their posts in the Ugandan army and invaded northern Rwanda. After initial gains in threatening Kigali, the offensive was turned back with the help of Zairean and French troops sent to reinforce the Habyarimana regime. The war reached a stalemate and the two sides (RPF and MRND) entered into peace negotiations. These talks resulted in the signing of the Arusha Accords in 1993 to create a power-sharing government. However, the deal left many MRND members dissatisfied, and specifically the violent youth-wing of the MRND party, the Interahamwe, protested in the streets and started arming themselves.

Violence broke out immediately after the President Habyarimana was killed in a plane crash in Kigali on April 6, 1994. It is clear that his plane was shot down, but until today, it is unclear who was responsible. The Rwandan Army Forces set up roadblocks around the capital Kigali to prevent anyone from fleeing. During the next about 100 days until mid-July, it is estimated that about 800.000 to 1.000.000 Rwandans were killed, constituting 70 % of the Tutsi population and 20 % of Rwanda’s total population. The killing ended when the RPF defeated the army and the MRND militias and took control of the Kigali.

Hutus and Tutsis

There is an ongoing debate as to whether the Hutu and Tutsi are really separate groups or not. The perceived difference between the Tutsi and Hutu populations however is a major issue in the histories of Rwanda and Burundi, as well as the Great Lakes region of Africa. While the Hutu are generally recognized as forming the majority of Rwanda, in racialist ideology the Tutsi were often identified as foreigners that settled amongst and intermarried with the Hutu Bantu population.

The relationship between the two modern populations is in many ways derived from the perceived origins and claim to “Rwandan-ness”. Several wars were fought between the groups, and the conflict is still ongoing. In any case, in 1959, the exclusive Tutsi rule was then for the first time challenged by the Hutu majority within the framework of the democratic elections.

There are numerous explanations for the (perceived) difference. It is yet unclear if the Tutsi migrated to Rwanda, or if societal changes around the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries led to a gradual, natural split, as those who owned cattle became known as Tutsi and those who did not became Hutu. Some studies point out that the Tutsi and Hutu lived side by side for centuries and practiced extensive intermarriage. The notion that current Rwandans can claim exclusively Tutsi or Hutu bloodlines is thus questioned.

In trying to explain the complex societies in sub-Saharan Africa, colonial scholars developed the Hamitic hypothesis, namely that “black Europeans” had migrated into the African interior, conquering the primitive peoples they found there and introducing civilization. This hypothesis led to massive support for the pre-existing Tutsi kingdom by the colonial powers and the Catholic Church, giving them better access to schooling and state institutions since the 19th century.

One of the key features used as a distinction by the colonial powers was the idea that Tutsi are pastoralists (cattle herders), whereas Hutu are farmers. Therefore, The Belgian colonial power designated people as Tutsi or Hutu on the basis of cattle ownership, physical measurements and church records. The ID cards that were issued based on such distinction formed the basis for the mass killing of Tutsi at roadblocks in 1994.

Simon Bikindi

Simon Bikindi was born in Rwerere commune, Gisenyi prefecture, Rwanda. During the period material to this case,he was a well-known composer and singer of popular music and director of the performance group Irindiro Ballet. Simon Bikindi was also an official in the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the government of Rwanda and a member of the MRND. By the terms of Rwandan legislation governing author’s rights, Simon Bikindi had a right to forbid or enjoin public broadcasts of hiscompositions. Simon Bikindi was a shareholder in the RTLM radio station.

His patriotic songs were playlist frequently played on national radio stations Rwanda from 1990 until the RPF took power in Kigali. The song lyrics promote Hutu solidarity and offer a particular perspective on the politics and history of Rwanda to. Among Simon Bikindi’s most popular compositions is Twasezereye (We said goodbye to the feudal regime), a song written in 1987. It was typically broadcast in connection with announcements that Hutu should oppose the Arusha Accords. RTLM repeatedly broadcast other Simon Bikindi compositions, notably Bene sebahinzi (The sons of the father of the cultivators), and Nanga abahutu (I hate these Hutu). Calls for attacks on the enemy in RTLM broadcasts were often preceded or followed by these songs composed and performed by Simon Bikindi.

Until the RPF took control over Kigali, his records were widely available as recordings on street markets. It has been established that Interahamwe groups listened to Mr. Bikindi’s songs prior to starting massacres.