Arusha, January 29, 2004 (FH) – Considered by the prosecution as the “mastermind” of the genocide, the former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, was the main target of Lieutenant General Romeo Dallaire's testimony. The retired general testified from January 19 to 27, 2004 at International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in the trial where Bagosora is jointly tried with three other senior officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR), in the Military I case.

3 min 16Approximate reading time

Just like most of the officers in his generation, Col. Bagosora comes from the northern parts of Rwanda. Born in 1941 in Giciye commune (Gisenyi province), just a short distance from Karago, the home town of President Juvenal Habyarimana, Bagosora graduated from the Officers Academy of Kigali in 1964. He would later on go through the French War College before being named as the deputy commandant of the Military Academy (Ecole supérieure militaire- ESM) in Kigali. He later became commandant of Kanombe military barracks, post he occupied up to June 1992, when he was appointed director of cabinet in the ministry of defence. Although he retired the following year, Bagosora nevertheless retained his political post. When rebels of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) overran most of Rwanda in July 1994, Bagosora, just like many other government officials, sought refuge in the former Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). His exile would later take him to Cameroon, where he was arrested in March 1996. Bagosora and the Arusha AccordsEven though Bagosora left a legacy in the formation and command of the ex-FAR, it was while he was the director of cabinet in the ministry ofdefence that he left an indelible mark in Rwanda's history books. It was in that capacity that he took part in negotiations with the RPF in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, where he is being held. After a year ofnegotiations, a peace treaty was finally signed in August 1993. But according to Dallaire, Bagosora only paid lip service to the treaty. In his view, “the peace accords were against the interests of the government and the Hutu population in general”, alleged Dallaire. Bagosora's indictment reads in part the he “openly manifested his opposition to the concessions” made to the RPF by the government's representative, Boniface Ngulinzira. The latter was killed during the genocide. Bagosora is alleged to have walked out of the negotiations “saying he was returning to Rwanda to prepare the apocalypse”. The indictment continues that Bagosora and other officers “publicly stated that the extermination of Tutsi would be the inevitable consequence of any resumption of hostilities by the RPF or if the Arusha Accords were implemented”. Swaying towards a Coup d'EtatShortly after the death of President Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, the “inner circle” grouped itself around Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, who became the “de facto” master of the country. According to General Dallaire, in the absence of the minister of defence who was on an official mission to Cameroon, Bagosora assumed total control and became “the boss”. The Canadian General recollected that the accused chaired a meeting on the night of April 6, 1994, in which he refused to recognise Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana's authority. Dallaire said that Bagosora allegedly declared during the meeting that Uwilingiyimana had “no authority whatsoever and that the country did notrecognise her as a leader”. From the night of April 6, it was Bagosora who “retained that authority and certainly exercised it”, he added. The witness continued that it was clear that Bagosora was thinking of a Coup d'Etat. In the early hours of April 7, 1994, Agathe Uwilingiyimana was assassinated by soldiers of the Rwandan army. Ten Belgian peacekeepers detailed to protect her were also killed on the same day. General Dallaire, who met with Bagosora several times during the genocide, reported that the accused remained stone-faced in the midst of the genocide, something that intrigued the General and made him suspect that the genocide had been planned. “I have never seen someone remain so calm, perfectly at ease despite the situation”, declared Dallaire, adding that it was as though “everything was going according to plan”. No show of emotionWith his chubby wrinkled, face, the accused impeccably dressed as usual, sat stone-faced and attentively followed the general's testimony. No emotion escaped from him as incriminating evidence showered down on him. As is the practice at the ICTR, Bagosora never opened his mouth during the proceedings to give his own account of events. It was his Franco-Martinique lead counsel, Raphael Constant, who, during cross-examination, tried to punch holes into the witness's allegations that Bagosora controlled both the army and the militia. The defence will at a later time be given a chance to call its own witnesses, and the accused can also take the witness stand. When, in June 1997, Bagosora had demanded for a new lawyer following a conflict with his previous one, he had stated that: “My trial is more of a political nature than it is judicial. Many countries are implicated in my trial”. Colonel Bagosora is jointly charged with the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi, the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and Major AlloysNtabakuze, former commander of the Para-commando battalion of Kigali. KN/ER/AT/CE/FH (ML' 0129c)