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Arusha, March 8, 2007 (FH) – The term “akazu” (maisonette in Kinyarwanda), largely used in the 1990s to designate former President Juvenal Habyarimana’s is an invention of the opposition, a witness declared Thursday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Jean-Marie Vianney Nkezabera, an influential member of the principal opposition party for Habyarimana, the Republic Democratic Movement (MDR), affirmed that this word had been created by his political party in 1991 to “weaken” the former president and his supporters. Nkezabera was called as a witness for the defense of Protais Zigiranyirazo, a brother-in-law of Habyarimana, whom the prosecutor considers as one of the central personalities of the akazu. According to the prosecution, the akazu controlled all political, economic and military power in the country before and during the genocide of the Tutsis in 1994. Zigiranyirazo is being tried for planning and participating in the genocide. He has pled not-guilty. “We wanted to weaken President Habyarimana. In the interim, among the slogans, we invented the term akazu. All those who could help him were considered caged people in a little hut,” explained Nkerzabera. “We used the significant term maisonette pejoratively,” the witness continued. According to him, in the spirit of the MDR party, akazu referred to a “little hut which confined lepers.” The witness indicated that when the MDR was formed in July 1991, the population, principally the rural population, had difficulty understanding that Habyarimana was an ordinary person who could be replaced as head of state. “It was him, the leader that we wanted to isolate. We presented him as the center of the akazu. We wanted to take away his people. We wanted people to leave his party and join ours,” Nkezabera said. Habyarimana was a member of the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND). Rwanda adopted multiparty democracy in 1991. “From September 1991, all parties started to use the term akazu. It entered political discourse to criticize those who continued to support the MRND,” Nkezabera added. In the Zigiranyirazo trial, which started on October 3, 2005, the prosecutor called at least two witnesses who evoked the central role of the akazu. One of them, Michel Bagaragaza, the former official responsible for the tea industry in Rwanda, is himself accused before the ICTR. The defense contests the credibility of these witnesses. Zigiranyirazo was a prefect in Kibuye (west) and Ruhengeri (north) under Habyarimana. He is being defended by two Canadian lawyers: Mr. John Philpot and Mr. Peter Zaduk. AT/PB/KD © Hirondelle News Agency