Arusha, October 21st, 2002 (FH) - The man regarded by the prosecution of the UN tribunal for Rwanda as the "ideologue" behind the 1994 genocide on Friday wrapped up over two weeks of his own testimony. The bulk of charges against Ferdinand Nahimana stem from his involvement with the radio station he helped found and build, "hate-radio" Radio Télévision Libre des Mille collines (RTLM).

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The prosecution alleges that Nahimana excised control over the extremist radio that called for ethnic Hutus to kill minority Tutsis during the genocide and before that. Nahimana has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him and distanced himself from a critical period in the history of RTLM. Nahimana’s careerNahimana was born in 1950 in Gatonde commune in the north west Rwanda province of Ruhengeri. After his PhD studies in France, Professor Nahimana returned to teach history at the National University of Rwanda where he had been a student before. Towards the end of 1990, Nahimana was appointed director of the Rwandan National Information Office, ORINFOR. In this position, he oversaw activities of the state radio, newspapers and all media related activities in the country. In February 1992, Nahimana was dismissed from his position at ORINFOR. Later that year, him and others, mainly members of the then ruling party, MRND,were to start plans for the creation of the first approved private radio station in Rwanda. The only other private radio station at the time was Radio Muhabura broadcasting from RPF (a mainly Tutsi rebel movement) held territory in the north of the country. About one month before the July 1994 fall of the government, under whose reign the massacres took place, Nahimana was appointed advisor to the then president of Rwanda, Theodore Sindikubwabo. Nahimana is accused of crimes allegedly committed during his term in the different offices he held. And the prosecution has also reproached him with the contents of some his books, essays and articles. Together with his PhD thesis, several of his publications allegedly "theorised" the plan of the 1994 genocide. Nahimana was arrested in Cameroon in 1996. His trial is regarded by analysts as the most complex at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). It began in October 2000. After some forty prosecution witnesses the prosecution closed its case in July. Nahimana is the first defence witness. He is jointly on trial with two other accused also involved with the media in Rwanda in Rwanda before and during the genocide. The two are former editor of alleged extremist newspaper, Kangura, Hassan Ngeze and founder member of RTLM, Jean Bosco Barayagwiza. "Ethnicist background"The prosecution and its witnesses have argued that Nahimana is not one of those good men that inexplicably turned evil after the April 6th, 1994 shooting down of president Habyarimana's plane that sparked off the genocide but rather was a man whose life was dedicated to an anti-Tutsi cause. The prosecution indictment goes back to the late 60s when Nahimana was a secondary school student at a catholic seminary. Here, the teenage Nahimana is accused of having formed an association called the Association for the defence of Bakiga (Rwandans from the predominantly Hutu north west of the country) students. Nahimana has denied founding such an organisation. Besides, he says, the term "Bakiga" had not yet come into usage in the Kinyarwanda language. Moreover, he told the court that the seminary didn't permit formation of students' organisations. Later on, in the early 70s, Nahimana is accused of having founded an anti Tutsi student movement called comité du salut. He was then Secretary General of the only student association at the National University of Rwanda, AGNR. The comité du salut attacked and forced out of school Tutsi students in some parts of the country in the 70s. Regarding allegations that he participated in an attack on Tutsi students at the University and the south west Rwanda provincial town of Butare in 1973, he told the court that, in addition to his principles, he couldn't have done it since it would have endangered his personal safety. "I looked (…) like a Tutsi. " he told court. "I would have been a target of the attackers," he added. Tutsis are widely regarded to be taller, and with thinner noses compared to Hutus. "Genocide literature"In his career after school, Nahimana published several books and articles that will now be scrutinised by the court. Nahimana has accused the prosecution of "misinterpreting" these books and articles. Among those cited by the prosecution is an essay written by Nahimana in 1993 with the title "Rwanda: problems and solutions" in which he talks of a conspiracy by a "Tutsi league" to destabilise the country. "The league existed and we have all seen what it did", he testified. He said that the "league" was composed of groups of Tutsis in the Diaspora. Nahimana, who during his testimony repeatedly referred to himself as a "serious academician, gentleman, lucid intellectual and scholar", accused the prosecution and its witnesses of 'misrepresenting' the contents of his books and articles on Rwanda. Among others, the prosecutor accuses Nahimana of advocating for the formation of Interahamwe militia in his article 'A strategy for Victory of Rwanda'. In the article, published in the early 90s, Nahimana recommends the formation of a 'civil defence' system as the solution to Rwandan problems. "My idea was not to form a violent militia", Nahimana told the court. "I wanted a peoples' force composed of people from all groups" The prosecution has argued that Nahimana was the brain behind the formation of the radical Interahamwe militia. Bugesera killingsIn 1992, about 300 Tutsis were killed in the South Rwanda region of Bugesera. Several human rights organisations then, and the prosecutor now, accuse Nahimana of inciting the killings with a communiqué broadcast over the national radio. According to Nahimana, who was then director of ORINFOR, the communiqué was about a tract received from Nairobi on a planned assassination, by the RPF, of prominent Hutu personalities. Prosecution witnesses hold that the said tract was a document drawn by Nahimana himself to fuel anti-Tusti sentiments. Nahimana says that the document wasn't the cause of the killings since it didn't mention the words "Tutsi" and "Bugesera". He blames the attack on a political rally held in Bugesera by a Tutsi member of the opposition. "Revolting" broadcasts on RTLM"Some broadcasts after April 6th, 1994 were revolting and unacceptable. I wonder what had gone wrong in the minds of some journalists," Nahimana toldjudges last week. In a trial where there has been very few "admissions" by both the prosecution and the defence, the defence appears to have admitted,at least judging from Nahimana's testimony, that at the start of the genocide, some RTLM journalists "took on a murderous conduct". This is a period in which Nahimana has testified as having had "no say whatsoever" about the radio. The prosecution however stretches the period of "murderous conduct" to the start of the radio in 1993. Its witnesses have also testified that Nahimana was the director of RTLM or at least "held himself out" as one. The prosecution hasn't given a stand on either of the two. Nahimana admits having been one of the founders of RTLM. Concerning administration of RTLM, Nahimana says he was only one of eight members of the Comité d'initiative' , a board managing the station. He told the court that he was only chairman of the technical and programmes committee of the Comité d'initiative. Furthermore, and this appears to be one of the prosecutor's prime weapons, Nahimana has acknowledged that throughout his time on the RTLM board, he was one of the three persons with signing power on RTLM bank accounts. The other two were founder member and president of RTLM, Felicien Kabuga and Jean Bosco Barayagwiza. Prosecutor Simone Monasebien of the US prefaced most of her questions on this area with the sentence; "While you were signing RTLM checks…" Nahimana replied that signing checks had nothing to do with the editorial policy of the radio. "People in charge of signing checks were not responsible for day to day running of the station", he said. According to Nahimana, Phocas Habimana was the director of RTLM and was therefore responsible for the editorial line of the station and the conduct of its journalists. The prosecution has presented to court several RTLM broadcasts that fall in the period in which Nahimana says that as a member of the board and shareholder, he did his best to denounce, through the board, any "unacceptable" broadcasts. One such broadcast was a broadcast by renown RTLM journalist Habimana Kantano saying that the Tutsi and the RPF were the same thing. This was in February 1994. Nahimana told the court that he had only heard the broadcast during his detention at the ICTR. "I didn't listen to all broadcasts", he said. He told the court of a couple of instances when the board had summoned RTLM journalists on certain broadcasts. "There were cases of people going astray"Nahimana however disagreed with the prosecution about the meaning and impact of some broadcasts. In one instance where RTLM said Tutsis had all the money in the country, Nahimana rebuffed the prosecutor's characterisation of the article as reminiscent of "Nazi literature" that Jews had formed an international conspiracy to take European jobs. "I can't compare the two", said. "I don't see anything wrong with mentioning that someone has more money than the other. It happens everywhere in the world", he added. Asked why he didn't resign from the RTLM when mistakes continued, Nahimana said he was "only a member of the comité d'initiative. Mistakes were made but we did our best to correct them. "During the post April 6th1994 period in which the prosecution and Nahimana agree that RTLM broadcasts amounted to incitement to kill, Nahimana says "the radio had been hijacked by extremist forces" After the shooting down of the president's plane, Nahimana first fled to Burundi on April 12th. Before his trip to Burundi, Nahimana say he was confined in the French embassy from where he couldn't monitor what was going on at RTLM. He said he returned to the south west Rwanda region around April 17th, 1994. The prosecution maintains that throughout this period, Nahimana "had the power to stop the broadcasts that were going out at RTLM. He didn't do so because he supported and was behind the broadcasts. "Advisor to the presidentShortly after his return to Rwanda, in June 1994, Nahimana took on a position as advisor to the then president Sindikubwabo, whom the prosecutor accuses of having presided over the massacres at that time. "I was not an advisor in the administrative sense of the word," Nahimana told the court. He says he hadn't been appointed in an official manner. The prosecution accuses him of flirting with a 'genocidaire'. The chamber will continue to hear more witnesses for Nahimana before it can determine whether he was an "advocate for peace" or an "ideologue" of a genocide. GG/FH(ME-1022e)