Arusha, July 5, 2001 (FH) - Former Rwandan mayor and genocide suspect Juvénal Kajelijeli was a powerful political figure whose influence reduced the local administrative leaders to figureheads, the first prosecution witness in Kajelijeli's trial told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Thursday. Protected witness "GBV", a Tutsi who managed to pass as a Hutu during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, said that Kajelijeli had since 1991 been a powerful member of the former presidential party MRND in Ruhengeri, northwest Rwanda.

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He said that he knew Kajelijeli from 1974 when the former mayor was a carpenter working for priests in Mukingo commune. According to GBV, Kajelijeli told villagers in his home area that they had to fight the "inyenzi" [derogatory word for Tutsi] and that people should not join any party other than the MRND. "Kajelijeli was the real power holder," GBV told the court. Kajelijeli was mayor of Mukingo between 1988 and 1993 when he left office. He was re-elected on June 26th, 1994. The witness told the court that soon after the death of former President Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6th 1994, Kajelijeli met with militia and immediately a man, referred to as Rukara, was killed. GBV told the court he saw the accused driving a truck with more than 20 Interahamwe militia on board, and that he also witnessed the killing of a woman in April 1994 by militia in Mukingo commune. Defence counsel Lennox Hinds of the US asked the witness during cross-examination about discrepancies between his oral testimony and his written statement to UN investigators. GBV had not mentioned Rukara's death in his statement, Hinds pointed out. The witness told the court he forgot to mention this incident to the investigators. The witness told the Chamber that Kajelijeli was a close associate of former Rwandan National Assembly president Joseph Nzirorera, who is also in ICTR custody. GBV added that Kajelijeli was present during MRND meetings addressed by Nzirorera. "It was customary to see Nzirorera with Kajelijeli," said GBV. Defence lawyer Hinds had previously asked that Nzirorera's name be struck from the record, because his client was not being tried with Nzirorera. The court threw out his motion. Hinds maintains that Kajelijeli was mayor for only for three weeks during the events of 1994 and that he should not be treated as "guilty by association" with Nzirorera. Kajelijeli is charged with eleven counts of genocide, crimes against humanity and violations of the Geneva Conventions (war crimes). The witness finished his testimony late Thursday afternoon. The case is before Trial Chamber Two of the ICTR, composed of Judge William Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson of Madagascar and Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu of Lesotho. SW/JC/PHD/FH (KJ0705e)