Arusha, 23 July 2007 (FH) - The defence disputed the credibility of a prosecution witness bringing forth his membership to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which is currently in power in Kigali, on Monday in the trial of three former politicians currently before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).   

1 min 56Approximate reading time

The witness, Fidèle Uwizeye, prefect of Gitarama (central Rwanda) in 1994 under the banner of the Mouvement Démocratique Républicain (MDR), now dissolved, joined the RPF in 2002.
He was called by the Prosecutor in the trial of the leaders of the former Rwandan presidential party, the Mouvement Républicain National pour la Démocratie et le Développement (MRND).
The defendants are Matthieu Ngirumpatse, Edouard Karemera and Joseph Nzirorera; respectively president, vice-president and secretary-general of the MNRD in 1994.
The lawyer of Karemera, Dior Diagne (Senegal), questioned the true motifs of Uwizeye, basing herself on his statement to the Prosecutor according to which he has "as mission to come charge the interim government".
The defendants were close to the interim government in place during the 1994 genocide of Tutsis. Karemera was even appointed Minister of the Interior in May of that year. The interim government was militarily overcome on 4 July 1994 by the RPF.
"I finally understand your mission when you acknowledge that you are a member of the RPF", stated Diagne while questioning the witness.
Fidèle Uwizeye replied that he is not testifying as a member of the RPF. "I was in a position of authority at the time of the genocide. I come as an eyewitness. I come with the mission of comforting Rwandans that were victims of these events. I do not come here as a member of the RPF ", he said.
Diagne then concentrated on the formalities of joining the RPF; in particular, the oath which a new member must take. "If you betray the RPF, the sword must ‘transpierce' you", raised Diagne by quoting an extract of this oath.
The witness recognized that there is a pact which binds the member to his party and that "traitors" are indeed punished.
Fidèle Uwizeye, nevertheless, indicated that the member does not commit himself to not betraying the RPF as such but, rather, its political ideology which he defined as "peace, unity and development".
The lawyer asked the witness if he was not allotting to the RPF the motto of the MRND and he answered that he did not find it strange at all that the two political groups would have identical ideals.
Uwizeye, currently director of the department of mines and geology in his country, has been testifying in this trial since Thursday.
The defence had opposed the entire testimony of this witness, accusing him of having perjured himself in another case currently before the ICTR. The judges, however, overruled this objection.
The trial of the former leaders of the MRND started in September 2005. According to the chamber, it should last beyond the current mandate of the ICTR, which is due to be completed in December 2008.

© Hirondelle News Agency