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Feature News: How One Woman Lied About Her Role In The Rwandan Genocide To Obtain American Citizenship

Posted by Abeiku Ebo on

Feature News: How One Woman Lied About Her Role In The Rwandan Genocide To Obtain American Citizenship

“She has stolen the highly prized status of U.S. citizenship.”

“The defendant was not a mere spectator; the defendant personally participated in the killing of men, women and children, merely because they were called Tutsi.”

Those were the words of District Court Judge Stephen J. McAuliffe in July 2013 before sentencing Beatrice Munyenyezi, then 43, to 10 years in prison in the U.S. state of New Hampshire. Munyenyezi was sentenced on two counts of procuring American citizenship unlawfully by lying about her role in the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi. McAuliffe also stripped the Rwandan woman of her U.S. citizenship on the day of her conviction.

Munyenyezi was charged in June 2010 and later convicted in March 2012 by a New Hampshire federal jury. The jury said she obtained her U.S. citizenship unlawfully by “misrepresenting material facts to U.S. immigration authorities” after fleeing her home country of Rwanda. According to a statement by the ICE, testimony during the trial disclosed that Munyenyezi concealed her role in the Rwandan genocide, including her involvement in the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), the political party in power before and during the genocide, and its youth wing, the Interahamwe.

The Interahamwe was behind a militia that was heavily involved in the genocide, according to U.S. investigators. “Evidence at trial demonstrated that Munyenyezi, as a member of the Interahamwe, participated, aided and abetted in the persecution and murder of Tutsi people during the 1994 genocide,” ICE wrote.

At least 800,000 people – ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus – were killed in 100 days by Hutu militias during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. More than two million refugees fled Rwanda, generating a humanitarian crisis.

During Munyenyezi’s trial, scores of witnesses testified that throughout the genocide, Munyenyezi would stand on roadblocks outside her home and check identifications to identify Tutsi. She would then hand them over to the Interahamwe militia to be killed. Women were raped before being killed, witnesses said. Munyenyezi once commanded Interahamwe to rape one nun whom she later killed using a pistol, according to investigators.

 

“The evidence demonstrated that Munyenyezi misrepresented these facts in order to obtain immigration and naturalization benefits. She was ineligible to become a U.S. citizen because of her participation in genocide and murder,” ICE wrote in a statement in 2013.

Munyenyezi served a 10-year sentence in the state of Alabama and had faced deportation. She requested a new trial “based on a 2017 U.S. Supreme Court decision limiting the government’s ability to strip citizenship from immigrants who lied during the naturalization process,” Associated Press reported. She challenged how the jury was instructed during her trial in federal court in New Hampshire, but a judge ruled that “even if the instruction fell short, the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Last Friday, she was deported to Rwanda after losing her latest court case in March. She was arrested upon arrival in Rwanda, where she faces seven charges related to the 1994 genocide — murder as a genocide crime, conspiracy to commit genocide, planning of the genocide, complicity in genocide, incitement to commit genocide, extermination, and complicity in rape.

Upon her arrival, she was handed over to the Immigrations Office before being delivered to Rwanda Investigation Bureau (RIB), the New Times reported. The RIB said the genocide suspect will be detained at Remera RIB station as investigations continue, before sending her case to prosecution.

In July 1994, months after the Rwandan genocide, Munyenyezi, whose husband played a leadership role in the extremist Hutu militia party, fled to Nairobi, Kenya, with a young daughter. Reports said she gave birth to twin girls there four months later before entering the United States as a refugee. She settled in Manchester, New Hampshire’s largest city, and got a job with the city housing authority.

Munyenyezi earned an associate’s degree in college and lived comfortably through mortgages, loans and credit cards. She however filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and had about $400,000 in debt discharged, according to reports.

Meanwhile, her husband, Arsene Ntahobali, and his mother Pauline Nyiramasuhuko were sentenced to life in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for their role in the genocide against the Tutsi.


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