Witness testifies 'refugee' from Manchester played a role in mass killings in Rwandan homeland
CONCORD - A Manchester mother accused of lying about her role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide to gain U.S. citizenship helped man a roadblock in front of a Butare hotel where she pulled ethnic Tutsis out of line to be killed or raped, a Rwandan native testified in federal court Wednesday.
"Beatrice would ask people passing by for their IDs. People who were ethnic Hutus would be allowed to continue. And people who were ethnic Tutsis would be gathered on one side and they would lead them behind the hotel where they were going to kill them," Consolee Mukeshimana testified on the fifth day of Beatrice Munyenyezi's retrial on immigration fraud charges.
Women and girls were separated from the men and taken by the extremist Hutu militia members, known as the Interahamwe, to a nearby building where "you could hear their screaming," Mukeshimana told the 10 men and six female jurors in U.S. District Court.
"She (Munyenyezi) was there because, in order for them (Tutsis) to be killed, she had to ask them for their IDs and then led them to the Interahamwe," Mukeshimana, a Tutsi who testified through a Rwandan interpreter as Munyenyezi listened from the defense table.
During her two hours at the roadblock, Mukeshimana said she witnessed three Tutsi men get clubbed to death for resisting arrest. She said she managed to escape with the help of her brother in law - a Hutu related to the family of Munyenyezi's husband.
"He told the Interahamwe that he was going to kill me. He had a club. And he led me down the small path...We walked behind the (school) and there was a mass grave where they were throwing people," Mukeshimana continued.
At a turn in the path, she said her brother-in-law instead took her back to his home where she stayed with her sister.
Dressed in a brightly-colored African head scarf and dress, Mukeshimana is among some 11 new Rwandan witnesses the government brought here to testify at Munyenyezi's second trial.
Munyenyezi's first trial ended in a mistrial last March after jurors could not reach a unanimous verdict on two counts of fraudulently procuring citizenship.
The government accused Munyenyezi of presiding over murders, rapes and kidnappings in her Rwandan homeland, then lying about her role in the mass killings of mostly ethnic Tutsis on her refugee application in 1995 and when she applied for U.S. citizenship in 2002.
Munyenyezi became a U.S. citizen in 2003 and was living in Manchester with her three daughters when she was arrested in 2010.
Defense attorneys Mark E. Howard and David W. Ruoff of Manchester claimed Munyenyezi, who was pregnant with twins in 1994, stayed at the hotel to be safe and care for her eldest daughter. They maintained she never participated in the mass killings nor had any involvement in the ruling political party.
An estimated 800,000 people were killed during the three-month period known as the Rwandan genocide that began in April 1994.
Mukeshimana testified Munyenyezi, Munyenyezi's husband, Shalom Ntahobali, and his mother, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, worked the roadblock along with many heavily armed Interahamwe.
Munyenyezi and Nyiramasuhuko wore the military uniforms of the ruling Hutu party as they checked IDs of those passing through the roadblock, she said.
Ntahobali and Nyiramasuhuko were convicted in 2011 by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda of genocide and human rights violations. Both are serving life prison terms and are appealing their convictions.
Under cross-examination by Howard, Mukeshimana admitted that, even though she had been interviewed for a book about the genocide in 1995, she never mentioned Munyenyezi's role at the roadblock until American investigators approached her last year.
"You speak about what you are asked about," Mukeshimana replied.
"I did tell them (book's author) a long story, but it's never ending because there is a lot to talk about," she responded.
Howard sought to undermine Mukeshimana's credibility and recollections of events by attempting to draw inconsistencies between her prior statements and testimony.
Mukeshimana was one of four witnesses to testify Wednesday and one of five Rwandans to take the stand since the trial opened for testimony Feb. 6. The trial is expected to continue through the end of next week.