“A simple chauffeur” without relief and without stories, but with a course strewn with areas of shadows and lies. The Paris Assize Court looked into the personality of Franco-Rwandan Claude Muhayimana on Tuesday, prosecuted for complicity in the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994.
During an interrogation of several hours, sometimes disjointed, the President of the Court Jean-Marc Lavergne tried to identify who was this 60-year-old man, calm, polite, smiling on occasion. And discreet, even when he bursts into tears on several occasions, especially at the mention of his deceased father.
However, over the course of the interrogation, the tone becomes more and more assured, and the defendant’s line of defense becomes clearer: an ordinary citizen, but the victim of a plot orchestrated against him by the post-genocide Rwandan authorities. .
Dressed in a sweatshirt and jeans, Mr. Muhayimana, a short, sturdy man, speaks correct French, even though some of the president’s questions are translated into Kinyarwanda.
Prosecuted for complicity in genocide and crimes against humanity during the extermination of the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994, he tries to stick to the image of “Mr. everyone”, of “ordinary citizen who found himself in chaos “defended from the start by his lawyers.
“I do not like the discord in my life”, sums up this man, who appears free. He is accused of having transported the Hutu killers to the sites of Tutsi massacres in Kibuye (west) during the bloody months of April to July 1994, during which more than 800,000 people, mainly from the Tutsi minority, were massacred in Rwanda.
– Shadow areas –
However, the course of this “simple driver” as he describes himself on several occasions, includes many gray areas, which he does not really clarify.
Asked about the lies that appeared during his request for asylum in France, which was rejected, and in which he stated in particular that several members of his family were killed, he replied “that was misinterpreted”, and accuses the translator of the time of having “invented” and mounted a case against him. He also charges his ex-wife, Tutsi, whose testimony could prove to be crucial, and whom he accuses of being “remotely guided” by the Rwandan regime.
Claude Muhayimana is a member of the RNC (Rwandan national congress), a party opposed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has ruled the country with an iron fist since the end of the genocide.
“You consider yourself to be the victim of political maneuvers in Kigali, is that why you find yourself today before the Assize Court?” Asks the president. “That’s it. That’s it,” replies Mr. Muhayimana.
From the opening of the hearing, the president tried to understand what knowledge Claude Muhayimana had of the genocide and its planning.
“What I know today is that there was a genocide but I do not know if it was planned,” replied the accused.
– “A calm life” –
Claude Muhayimana was born in January 1961 in Kibuye, of a mixed couple, a Tutsi mother and a Hutu father, which makes him a Hutu. Raised in a family of farmers “very religious”, very close to his mother, he is the second of four siblings, some of whom still live in Rwanda.
He left home as a teenager to live in a religious congregation with a Belgian missionary before becoming a driver in 1986. He married in 1990 Mediator Musengeyezu, a Tutsi, with whom he had two daughters. The couple divorced in the mid-2000s.
After the genocide, Mr. Muhayimana, claiming to be threatened by the new Rwandan authorities, fled to Zaire in 1995, lived in exile in Kenya, before arriving in France in 2001, where he obtained his nationality in 2010.
Since 2007, he has been employed at the town hall of Rouen. Described by witnesses as “straightforward, sincere, invested and believing”, “he is a sociable man, who leads a calm life with little leisure”, and a “punctual and serious” employee, notes the personality investigator.
The accused faces life imprisonment.