Arusha, November 24, 2003 (FH) – Former Rwandan Minister of Finance andgenocide suspect Emmanuel Ndindabahizi began testifying in his defence onMonday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Ndindabahizi is the last defence witness in his trial.

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He narrated how he escaped death by a whisker as he sought refuge in aneighbour's house after the shooting down of President Juvenal Habyarimana'splane in Kigali on April 6th 1994. Ndindabahizi 53, is charged with three counts including genocide andcrimes against humanity (extermination and murder). He allegedly perpetratedmassacres of civilians in his home prefecture of Kibuye, western Rwanda. Led in his chief evidence by his lead counsel Pascal Besnier (France), thesuspect said he left his house in Kigali on the morning of April 7th, tohide in a neighbour's house because RPF troops were killing people in theirhomes. “I was threatened because of my position within the ministry and the party. ”After hiding for some few hours, he fled again when the RPF soldiers camecloser to his hideout. ”I left in a hail of bullets, I did not know where thebullets came from. ”The suspect then fled to the house of another PSD (Social Democratic Party)member and a director of Cabinet called Hyacinthe Nsengiyumva Rafiki. Ndindabahizi was an active member of PSD and was the chairperson of the saidparty in his native Kibuye prefecture. He described the situation in Kigali as totally unsafe since there wassporadic gunfire in the city after the president's assassination. While at Nsengiyumva's house on April 8th, the former Director of CabinetTheoneste Bagosora paid a visit to his host and asked him to attend ameeting at the Ministry of Defence. Nsengiyumva accepted the invitation and also informed Bagosora thatNdindabahizi was hiding in his house. It was then that Bagosora askedNsengiyumva Rafiki to take the accused to the meeting. Asked why he chose to accompany Nsengiyumva Rafiki, the accused said he hadno choice because Nsengiyumva was relocating his family and “he was totallyin his hands. ”Before the two went to the venue of the meeting Nsengiyumva Rafiki decidedto involve another senior official of PSD, Francois Ndungutse from Butareregion. When the three arrived at the ministry of defence at 2. 30 p. m, theyfound that the meeting to form the interim government had already been held. “We were told the government has already been formed. Then we were asked :‘Who will occupy the three ministries you (the PSD) hold'? When we askedwhat happened to our former representatives, we were answered that 'theywere either dead or they had disappeared”Ndindabahizi said they reached a decision on the spot to appoint PSD membersto take up the three ministerial posts which the party had been allocated. “I was not consulted. Nsengiyumva Rafiki pointed to me as a minister ofFinance. I could not reject the offer. Is it possible for one to refuse theoffer on the prevailing conditions then?” Ndindabahizi stated. To him, the approach asking PSD to appoint ministers was an ambush. He addedthat Ndungutse and Nsengiyumva Rafiki only signed the agreement adopted toset up the interim government. There was no discussion on what thegovernment was to do or how it would run its affairs. The suspect continues with his testimony on Tuesday afternoon. The trial is before Trial Chamber One composed of Judge Erik Mose (Norway)presiding, Judge Khalida Rachid Khan (Pakistan) and Solomy Balungi Bossa(Uganda). PJ/CE/FH (NB'1124e)