Arusha, February 10, 2003 (FH) –The trial of four senior officers of the former Rwandan army shifted into high gear when General Romeo Dallaire, former commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR), testified at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). He was in the witness box from January 19 to 27.

3 min 40Approximate reading time

Dallaire's former aid-de-camp, Major Peter Beardsley, then testified next in support of the former Canadian general's testimony. Maj. Beardsley finished testifying last week. Dallaire, 58, went to Rwanda for the very first time in August 1993 as a part of an evaluation mission. He arrived at a time when the country was engulfed in political turmoil as well as a civil war that pitted the Hutu-dominated government and the Tutsi-led Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF). Two months later, the United Nations Security Council decided to send a peacekeeping force under the command of Gen. Dallaire. In the meantime, the protagonists had signed peace accords in the Tanzanian town of Arusha. SetbackWhen the massacres started after the killing of president Juvenal Habyarimana on the night of April 6, 1994, Dallaire came to the conclusion that what the Arusha Peace Accords stood for “was lost”. According to him, opposition to the accords were rife both within the Habyarimana's “inner circle”, and within the RPF. The witness pointed out the former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, as spearheading the hardliners within the president's entourage. Bagosora is one of the accused in this trial. The prosecution alleges that Bagosora is the “mastermind” of the genocide that claimed the lives of an estimated one million people within a hundred days. Dallaire did not mince his words. “It was Bagosora who held the real power. He even overshadowed higher-ranked officers”, said the general. Dallaire continued that UNAMIR's position was that Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, was the legitimate person to fill the constitutional vacuum left by the death of the president. During the very first meeting of the crisis committee called on the night of April 6, Bagosora rejected the idea of handing over power to the Prime minister arguing that “the population has no confidence in her”. According to the Canadian general, such an attitude reflected a total rejection of the Arusha accords, adding that it was more or less a Coup d' Etat. Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana was assassinated on the morning of April 7, 1994. All through the turmoil, Bagosora is said to have remained calm and undisturbed. ”It was as though everything was going according to plan”, or alternatively, “as though he was living on another planet”. ”The plan aimed at exterminating the opposition”Gen. Dallaire let it out that the “plan” was to eliminate all political opposition recognised by the Arusha accords. He however pointed out that with the extent of the killings, it was difficult to imagine that someone could have been able to plan the death of 800,000 people. It is “impossible that a plan to carry out such a holocaust could have existed”. He blames the wide-scale killings to “overspills” that came to addup to what had been planned “on the political side”. Dallaire also revealed that there were some moderate elements within both the army and political circles who did not want war. He continued that “maybe between 40 and 70 percent” of the army were tired of war and wanted a ceasefire, while the rest were still in doubt as to the intentions of the RPF following its military and political gains. General Dallaire accuses the UNInformation available to UNAMIR from an informer, former militia member Jean-Pierre Turatsinze, revealed that long before the 1994 genocide, the army had trained and distributed weapons to civilians. The informer claimed that the militia had the “capacity to kill one thousand Tutsis in twenty minutes”. Going by the information, Gen. Dallaire sent a telegram to his superiors in New York in January 1994 seeking authorisation to mount an operation to seek and recover hidden arms. The witness revealed that the UN turned down his request arguing that an operation of that kind “did not lie within UNAMIR's mandate”. In his book, “Shake hands with the devil”, in which Major Beardsley also contributed, the former UN forces commander is nevertheless convinced that the operation would have helped fend off or limit the massacres. In his view, the arms proliferation was made worse by the civil wars in both Uganda and Burundi. Both camps were equally guilty Even though Dallaire's principal target is Colonel Theoneste Bagosora and the “inner circle”, he did not spare the RPF. “None of the two parties was inclined towards the application of the peace accords”, pointed out the General. He added that UNAMIR expected both sides to respect the status quo and not rearm as they waited for installation of the transitional institutions. Instead, as Dallaire explained, the Rwandan government army was rearming and redeploying battalions all over the country. On the other hand the RPF commander Paul Kagame had predicted on April 2, 1994 that “we are on the brink of a catastrophe, and no one would be able to control it once it was triggered off”. “It seems they (the government and the RPF) did not understand the full meaning of the accords”, lamented Dallaire. Bagosora's defence teams strongly contested the version of events put forth by the Canadian General. According to the lead counsel, Raphael Constant (Franco-Martinique), Dallaire had made up a wrong image of his client. Bagosora is jointly charged with the former head of military operations of the army, Brigadier Gratien Kabiligi, the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and the former commander ofthe Para-commando battalion in Kanombe (Kigali), Major Aloys Ntabakuze. The trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway (presiding), Judge Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Judge Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. KN/GA/CE/FH (ML''02010e)