Arusha, September 25, 2002 (FH) - American historian and human rights activist Alison Des Forges told the Tribunal on Tuesday that the former advisor at the Rwandan defence ministry (chef de cabinet), Théoneste Bagosora had presidential ambitions before and during the 1994 genocide. Des Forges is testifying as the first prosecution witness in the "Military Trial" which resumed on September 2nd.

2 min 35Approximate reading time

She started her testimony two days later. The defence started cross-examination on September 19th with Bagosora's team being the first to question the witness. Bagosora is grouped with three other ex-military officers, namely Anatole Nsengiyumva, a former Lieutenant Colonel in the Rwandan Armed Forces; Aloys Ntabakuze, a former Major and Commander of the Para-Commando Battalion in the Rwandan Armed Forces, and who is jointly charged with Gratien Kabiligi, a former general in the General Staff of the Rwandan Armed ForcesWhile the defence started off with general questions, the witness on Tuesday mainly testified on matters that touched Bagosora directly. She was cross-questioned by Bagosora's lead counsel Raphael Constant of Martinique. In response to his questions Des Forges told the court that according to some observers former President Juvénal Habyarimana was wary of Bagosora and feared that he might rise to the highest office in Rwanda. She added that Bagosora wanted and hoped to rule the country. The witness stated that the conclusion on Bagosora's ambitions was drawn up by very well placed sources. On the events after April 1994, Des Forges said that the accused's aim of taking control of the political situation was geared at gaining power over the country at a higher level. The prosecution maintains that after Habyarimana's death Bagosora assumed "de facto" control of the political situation. Identifying the enemyIn her testimony, the witness maintained that Bagosora was against Tutsis, in response to Constant who asked if she had done any research on the character of his client to substantiate this claim. She said her report was on events that had taken place in the country, which included details on several individuals and therefore she had not done specific research on Bagosora separately. Constant questioned whether the Hutu were not justified in fearing the Tutsi given past experience where the RPF had previously violated cease-fire agreements including twice in 1991. He asked the witness whether the regime in power in 1992 was not bound to think they (mainly pro-Tutsi RPF) would also violate the Arusha accords of 1992. Des Forges said that each issue should be taken in specific content and that in 1992 there was more international attention on the Arusha accords. She maintained that there was an ethnic element (anti-Tutsi) propagated before and during the 1994 events. Des Forges maintained that the "propagandists" in Rwanda worked on the emotions roused by killings in neigbouring Burundi (where the Tutsi regime had killed Hutu civilians). "They knew where to strike the cord and they struck it right," she said. She gave an example of the accused's dislike for alleged Tutsi supporters stating that "Bagosora had only contempt for the former Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana who he allegedly referred to as an RPF agent". He said that she was morally and materially demobilizing the Rwandan army when it was fighting for its life against the RPF, Des Forges added. Uwilingiyimana was a moderate who supported the Arusha accords. She was killed on April 7th, 1994 together with some ten Belgian soldiers who were guarding her. She was amongst the first victims of the bloodbath that ensued after the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana in a plane crash on April 6th. Constant was scheduled to complete his cross-examination on Tuesday but he did not. It is expected that he will do so on Wednesday morning. However, the witness will not be able to complete her entire testimony before the trial is adjourned at the end of this week. Three other defence teams have yet to cross-question the witness. The hearing is before ICTR's Trial Chamber Three composed of judges Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis, (presiding) Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia and Andresia Vaz of Senegal. This Chamber is also hearing alternately, two other cases. SW/FH (ML-0925e)