Arusha, May 28, 2002 (FH) - A former Rwandan Minister for Justice Charles Nkurunziza on Tuesday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that the 1994 events were a Hutu uprising sparked off by the deaths of several important personalities. Nkurunziza was testifying as a defence witness in the trial of two politicians and a military officer from Cyangugu.

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"The killing of Habyarimana was like the last straw that broke the camel's back," he told the court. He said that each time there was a problem in Rwanda it was the Tutsis causing it while the Hutus reacted and that in 1994, many people including a minister and a mayor had been killed before the death of former President Juvenal Habyarimana. Nkurunziza is the twenty-seventh defence witness for former Transport Minister Andre Ntagerura one of the accused in the Cyangugu trial. This trial groups Ntagerura, former Cyangugu prefect Emmanuel Bagambiki and former commander of the Karambo military barracks in Cyangugu, Samuel Imanishimwe. Prosecution maintains that all three are guilty of massacres of Tutsis in Cyangugu during the 1994 genocide. They have pleaded not guilty. Nkurunziya served as Minister of Justice (1977-84) and as Secretary General of the Cabinet (1992-1994). In his testimony Nkurunziza said he was appointed head of the Constitutional Court in the interim government but held the position for only 19 days before he fled with his family on July 19th, 1994. He said that the interim government was under siege and that the first step after its installation on April 9th was to prepare for its flight on April 12th. Nkurunziza said that the cabinet moved from Gitarama towards Gisenyi but a short while later "Gisenyi was taken" by Rwandan Patriotic Forces (RPF) who were fighting the Rwandan Armed Forces. On Ntagerura, the witness said he was aware that he (Ntagerura) had gone on a mission to accompany the body of the former Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira. Ntaryamira was killed together with Habyarimana when their plane was brought down on April 6th, 1994. Nkurunziza also said he heard from other ministers that he (Ntagerura) went on another mission "abroad" and that he met with the Prime Minister (Jean Kambanda) to give a report on his missions. The witness added that Ntagerura did not attend some cabinet meetings held within the month of April. Nkurunziza told the court he opted to come and testify before the Tribunal even though he is aware the Rwandan government wants him because "Andre Ntagerura was arrested unfairly. " Nkurunziza is on Category I of the list of suspects sought by the Rwandan government for genocide crimes. He said that he wants to make a contribution to justice by shedding some light on events that occurred. In response to a question by Russian Judge Yakov Ostrovsky the witness said he attended some cabinet meetings from April 16th, 1994 as Secretary General to the Cabinet. Nkurunziza said there was never an issue of meeting to plan killing of civilians. He said that a meeting was held on April 11th, for all prefects whereby the government sent a message of peace. However, some prosecution witnesses have testified that in a meeting in April, prefects gave instructions on how killings would be executed. The hearing continues on Wednesday morning before ICTR's Trial Chamber Three, composed of judges Lloyd George Williams of St. Kitts and Nevis (presiding), Yakov Ostrovsky of Russia and Pavel Dolenc of Slovenia. SW/FH (CY-0528e)