28.01.08 - ICTR/GOVERNMENT II -EX-RWANDAN FOREIGN MINISTER WORKED FOR PEACE, CLAIMS BELGIAN DIPLOMAT

Arusha, 28 January 2008 (FH) - Genocide accused Former Rwandan Foreign Minister Jerome Bicamumpaka wanted to restore peace in his country devastated by the war and the massacres, claimed a Belgian diplomat Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
1 min 12Approximate reading time

Prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity, Bicampaka, 51, was his country's top diplomat in the interim Rwandan government from April to July 1994. He has pleaded not guilty.

The defence witness, Jean Ghiste, was a diplomat in the neighbouring Bujumbura, Burundi, in April 1994. He had represented the French-speaking community of Belgium in Rwanda and Burundi since December 1992.

The Belgian told the UN Court that he had met Bicamumpaka in Bujumbura on 16 and 17 April 1994. On 16 April, Bicamumpaka had represented his country at the funeral services for the Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, killed in the plane attack of his Rwandan counterpart Juvenal Habyarimana ten days earlier. The attack was sparked the genocide in Rwanda.

Ghiste said that on 17 April, he had discussed at length with Bicamumpaka the political situation which prevailed in Rwanda at the time.

"What he said to me was completely related to the support of the international community, in particular of the Belgian community, to negotiate with the RPF and to put an end to the hostilities and massacres which were in progress", he explained.

He had observed in the former minister "will to support the international community and to have contacts, which appeared difficult at that time". Ghiste said, adding that he had noticed in Bicamumpaka a feeling of
impotence owing to the fact that the interim government of which he was member was isolated.

Bicamumpaka is on trial alongside three of his colleagues who were in the interim government.--T Casmir Bizimungu (health), Justin Mugenzi (trade) and Prosper Mugiraneza (civil service).

Their trial started in November 2003. Mugiraneza is the only one not to have presented his defence.

AT/PB/MM/SC
© Hirondelle News Agency