Arusha, November 14th, 2002 (FH) - Two Rwandan politicians and members of the opposition political party, Mouvement démocratique républicain (MDR) on Thursday defended the party's record during the 1994 genocide as they testified in defence of former MDR minister and genocide suspect Eliezer Niyitegeka. Former minister of Justice and holder of various senior political positions between the mid 60s and mid 80s, André Sebatware and ex-member of the MDR political bureau, Jean Marie Vianney Nkenzabera said that contrary to prosecution allegations, the party had advocated for peace and unity among Rwandans.

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The prosecution alleges that towards the start of the genocide, former information minister Niyitegeka belonged to an alleged extremist Hutu faction of MDR called MDR-Power. Niyitegeka,50, is on trial for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in connection with killings in the Bisesero hills in the West Rwanda region of Kibuye. He was minister of information in the "Guverinoma y'abatabazi "(government of rescuers) that reigned over the period of the genocide. About One million ethnic Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in the 1994 genocide according to an official census by the government of Rwanda. Sebatware denied that the MDR faction to which him, Niyitegeka and Nkezabera belonged was called MRD-Power. Both Sebatware and Nkezabera, the later testifying after the former, said that the 'Power' suffix was a creation of the head of Faustin Twagiramungu, leader of the other MDR faction aimed at slandering the opposing faction. "Our party condemned the ideology of extremism. We proposed a new ideology to change the system", Nkezabera told court. Both witnesses also told court that their party wouldn't have sanctioned the genocide since it had supported the 1993 Arusha peace accords aimed at ending the war. The trial continues before Trial Chamber One of the ICTR comprising Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Møse of Norway and Andresia Vaz of Senegal. GG/FH (NI-1114e)