Arusha, September 20, 2001 (FH) - Two genocide suspects and former leaders in Cyangugu, south-west Rwanda, were respected authorities, key to the organisation of massacres in their region, an expert prosecution witness told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Wednesday and Thursday. The 41st prosecution witness, French sociology professor André Guichaoua, told the court that during the time of the 1994 massacres "Rwanda became the Republic of prefects.

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" Prefects were heads of regional provinces. Guichaoua, a professor at the University of Science and Technology in Lille, France, was testifying in the so-called Cyangugu trial. The case groups former Transport Minister André Ntagerura, former Cyangugu military commander Samuel Imanishimwe, and former Cyangugu prefect Emmanuel Bagambiki. They have pleaded not guilty to genocide charges. The witness said that Ntagerura and Bagambiki were very powerful in Cyangugu. "Prefect Bagambiki was not just anyone," said Guichaoua. The witness said Bagambiki came from Cyangugu, unlike his predecessor, and had much influence there. Guichaoua told the court that Bagambiki and two others opened a bank account five days after the interim government sent a letter to all prefects in May 1994. The letter, he said, was on "national security and civil defence" and was signed by former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda. The ICTR sentenced Kambanda to life imprisonment in 1998, after he pleaded guilty to genocide. Kambanda led the government in place during the genocide that started with the April 6th 1994, downing of the former president's 'plane. The witness said Bagambiki could easily have fled to ex- Zaire if he had wanted to disassociate himself with the genocide, but there was no indication he tried to oppose the massacres. Cyangugu is on the border with ex-Zaire. On Ntagerura, Guichaoua said the former minister never lost political power on the ground. Guichaoua quoted another Cyangugu leader as having called Ntagerura "the Ambassador of Cyangugu in Kigali". He said that as minister, Ntagerura was in charge of logistical means including the state-owned telephone company Rwandatel and the public transport company ONATRACOM. The hearing continued on Friday before Trial Chamber Three of the ICTR with defence lawyers cross-examining the witness. SW/JC/PHD/FH (CY0920e)