Arusha, January 19, 2004 (FH) - The former commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR) during the time of the genocide, General Romeo Dallaire, began his testimony Monday against four senior military officials being tried at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The four co-accused in the military trial are, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora who was the former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defense, General Gratien Kabiligi who was the former head of military operations of the army, the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and Major Aloys Ntabakuze, former commander of the Kanombe Para-military battalion based in Kigali.

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General Dallaire mainly testified against genocide suspect Bagosora whom he claimed had threatened to kill him at one time. "The last meeting with Bagosora in the later part of June 1994 was very confrontational, Bagosora threatened me with his pistol that the next time he saw me he would kill me", he said. Bagosora is considered by the prosecution to be the "mastermind" of the genocide. During his testimony, the general described Bagosora as being calm and so much at ease with the killings. He said, "The former chief of cabinet was slow and untouched by what was going on-he seemed to be totally on another planet, carrying on with his activities". The former UNAMIR commander said that it was from observing such behavior that he realized that there was a plan being implemented to exterminate Tutsis, "There was no reaction by Bagosora and other military leaders to ridicule the state of events"The General gave other instances where the military failed to intervene where they could have. He said that after the presidential plane was shot down on the 6th April 1994, it was rumoured all over Rwanda that Belgian soldiers had shot down the plane. "Bagosora and other senior officials never made any attempt to stop the rumours" he said. Instead he added, Bagosora was the first senior person from the Government to inform him openly of the plan to get rid of Belgian soldiers. He quoted Bagosora for telling him, "It is time to get the Belgians out fast". The general began his task as the UNAMIR commander in 1993. His mission was to oversee the implementation of the Arusha peace accord between the Rwandan Government of the time and the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) armed opposition. General Dallaire added that he tried to establish communications between the RPF and Bagosora in order to prevent a civil war from occurring but there was no will at all to cooperate. He described the meetings as being "cold" and "icy" and that the parties did not want to take control of the situation. In his testimony, the General said that he held meetings with the former chief of cabinet in the ministry of defense to ensure that there was a joint patrol between the UNAMIR and gendarmes. The patrols never took place. Dallaire continued to say that he was disappointed by Bagosora who was not cooperating as well as not adequately informing the military and the population of the presence and work of the UNAMIR peacekeepers. "We were having problems getting access to every part of the country because military commanders were not aware that we were supposed to help in the peace process"General Dallaire, the 37th prosecution witness, also told the court that there were several roadblocks installed which hindered diplomats from attending peacekeeping meetings. More than one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in Rwanda shortly after the death in a plane crash of former president Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. The General said that he did everything he could to stop the killings. He pleaded for 2000 more peacekeepers to be added to his insufficiently equipped 2300-man force but that the United Nations instead cut down the number of peacekeepers to 500 following the deaths on April 7, 1994 of 10 Belgian Blue Helmets assigned to protect the Prime Minister. General Dallaire blames the international community for failing to help. General Dallaire who is expected to testify until the 30th is considered one of the most important witnesses to testify at the Tribunal because he monitored closely the military activities at the time in Rwanda. All four accused have pleaded not guilty to multiple charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The trial is taking place in Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. SV/KN/AT/FH (ML''0119E)