Simon Bikindi, extremist singer

11 September 2006 by our correspondent in Arusha

After having tried high-ranking officers, ministers, businessmen, priests, journalists, local officials and militiamen, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) is in uncharted waters. On September 11, the most famous rwandese troubadour of his generation will stand trial for genocide. 

Born in 1954 to farmers in an obscure village in the commune of Rwerere at the foot of the Karisimbi volcano, Simon Bikindi made a name for himself in secondary school playing a combination of modern music and music from his region's rich repertory, which he continued to draw from throughout his career.

When the war broke out in October 1990, Bikindi was the most popular Rwanda folk singer. However, the war and the advent of multi-party politics became sources of inspiration for his well-known, but controversial songs. His songs have been banished on the national radio stations, but they are still played secretly in Rwanda and openly among Rwandans in exile. His fellow Rwandans agree: Bikindi is one of the top talents of contemporary Rwandan music. However, according to Stephen Rapp, head of prosecutions at the ICTR, "an analysis of his repertory shows that he was part of a conspiracy to commit genocide. Through his music, he contributed to a campaign to spread hatred."

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