Arusha, January 28, 2003 (FH) - The seventeenth defence witness in the trial of former Rwandan Minister for Higher Education Jean de Dieu Kamuhanda on Tuesday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda that the Interahamwe forced some of the inhabitants of Gikomero commune to massacre the Tutsis who had sought refuge at the parish on April 12th, 1994. The witness dubbed GPB was among a group of local people ordered by the Interahamwe to accompany them to the parish.

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He approximated the figure of the population forced to follow the militiamen at 40. The people were picked up on the roadside and nearby houses. "The attackers asked other people (of Gikomero) to help them massacre the Tutsis," GPB said adding that he never participated in the massacre. He testified that he only stood near the church and watched as the Tutsis numbering about 1500 were killed for two and a half hours. "The attackers caught us unexpectedly, and as they were armed, we had no choice but to follow them," GPB stated. He added that some of the Interahamwe wore uniforms while others were dressed in civilian clothes, but all were armed with firearms and grenades. Led in his chief evidence by Kamuhanda's lead counsel Aicha Conde of Guinea, GPB recalled that the attackers, who were about twenty, came in four vehicles. They then distributed firearms to the members of the population they had ordered to follow them and asked them to join in the killings. When challenged by the prosecutor, Ibukonulu Babajide of Nigeria, during crossquestioning to state why he did not run away, GPB responded that if he had defied the Interahamwe orders, he would have been shot . The witness also denied a claim by the prosecutor that he was among a group summoned to go and commit atrocities at the parish. " I did not collaborate with the Interahamwe to kill the people. Since they were armed I had no choice but to follow them," GPB paused. GPB added that he was elected an official of the Gacaca courts in his locality because the inhabitants considered him a man of intergrity who never participated in the massacres. Like previous defence witnesses, GPB said the population in Gikomero was surprised to learn that Kamuhanda had been arrested as, according to him, the accused did not participate in the killings at Gikomero parish:The trial continues on Wednesday with the evidence of a witness dubbed GPI. Kamuhanda's trial is beforeTrial Chamber II comprising Judges William Hussein Sekule of Tanzania (presiding), Arlette Ramaroson (Madagascar) Winston Churchill Matanzima Maqutu (Lesotho). PJ/CE/FH (KH0128e)