13.02.08 - ICTR/MILITARY II - WITNESS: NDINDILIYIMANA WAS A PEACEFUL PERSON

Arusha, 13 February 2008 (FH) - A witness stated before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) Wednesday that the former Chief of Staff of National Gendarmerie, General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, was a peaceful man,relaxed and not discriminatory.
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A former high ranking official in the Rwandan public administration and a diplomat, Leon Ngarukiye, 60, told the court that he knew the accused very well '' because they hailed from the same the commune.''

"From what I know, he had no problems with ethnic Hutus or Tutsis, neither with people from the south nor with people from the north", stressed the witness who currently resides in Denmark. He also said that Ndindilyimana was a great sportsman and a talented footballer.

Ndindiliyimana, a Hutu hails from Nyaruhengeri in Butare southern Rwanda.

Tensions were perceptible in the 1990's between Hutus and Tutsis on the one hand and between the south and north on the other hand.

The witness claimed that Ndindiliyimana played an active part in the peace talks and that he believed in the Arusha peace accords for power sharing and the merger of the belligerent armies.

The Rwandan government was at war against the rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The attack against the presidential plane on 6 April 1994 sparked the genocide and blew up the Arusha accords.

"Ndindiliyimana is not responsible for the diversions [of the peace accord] ", pointed out the witness.

Ngarukiye cleared the officer of the allegations of massacres and incitement in Nyaruhengeri and in the Nyabisindu area, where the witness stayed for a few days between April and May 1994.

The witness, who returned to the administration after genocide, stressed that he had not heard anybody in Nyaruhengeri or in political circles in Kigali mention the possible responsibility of Ndindiliyimana in the
massacres.

The witness, because of his functions, often discussed with the highest officials of the country, including the vice-president and the then minister of defence, General Paul Kagame. "I was convened a few times to
his home or to others. I never heard him mention this name in official speeches nor in talks which I had at his home".

On information about Nyaruhengeri, Ngarukiye stated that he had heard of it from his father. "He had said that he was ready to come to testify in accused's favour. Unfortunately, he died. I took the responsibility
to come in his place".

Ndindiliyimana is accused alongside three other officers in the joint trial known as Military II, which started in September 2004.

All have pleaded not guilty to genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

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