Arusha, 22 October 2007 (FH) - A Rwandan journalist detained in Kigali for his alleged role in the 1994 genocide, Domenica Makeli, began Monday his testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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Makeli was called by the defence of the former Minister of Foreign Affairs in the interim government in place in 1994, Jérôme Bicamumpaka.

Commenting on the broadcasted speeches of the members of this government, the former journalist with Radio Rwanda qualified them as "messages of pacification".

"We heard them and they gave us hope (..) we understood that among the urgent priorities (of this government) was the re-establishment of security for people and property".

"We understood that the government was going to get us out of the war", added Makeli who testified in its mother tongue, Kinyarwanda.

The prosecutor alleges in several trials at the ICTR, including that of Bicamumpaka and his three co-defendants, that the messages of the interim government encouraged the massacres of Tutsis; which the defence teams reject.

The others defendants in this trial are the former ministers of health, Casimir Bizimungu, of trade, Justin Mugenzi and of the civil service, Prosper Mugiraneza.

Makeli has been held in Rwanda since the end of the genocide. The association Reporters Without Borders has requested on several occasions his release.

At Radio Rwanda, he primarily hosted and produced programs in Kinyarwanda. He could, occasionally, be a reporter.

He produced many programs on the appearances of the Virgin Mary in Kibeho, in the prefecture of Gikongoro, in the south of Rwanda.

The last of this series of shows on these appearances was broadcasted, according to his testimony, 22 May 1994.

Before joining Radio Rwanda, Makeli had worked at the Kinyamateka newspaper, a department of the Rwandan Catholic Church, and at Imvaho, a publication belonging to the Rwandan Office of Information (ORINFOR).

He was called to the witness stand after another defendant accused of genocide in Rwanda, the former prefect of Ruhengeri (northern Rwanda), Basile Nsabumugisha.

The latter, at the end of his testimony, expressed fears for his safety and that of other witnesses that had come to testify before this United Nations tribunal.

The president of the chamber, Pakistani Judge Khalida Rashid Khan, assured that the ICTR takes care of the protection of its witnesses

© Hirondelle News Agency