Arusha, 29 April 2008 (FH) - A Belgian politician stated that a top official of the former Rwandan presidential party the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), Edward Karemera, accused of 1994genocide, was rather an open man, in his testimony before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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A former political adviser charged with Africa within the Christian Democrat International (CDI), a coalition of European political parties, Alain de Brouwer, 69, testified at the request of the defence of the former vice-president , on trial alongside two of his colleagues.

The Belgian politician indicated that he had regular contacts with leaders of the former governing party in Rwanda in the 1990s. Within this capacity he met on several occasions Karemera and his co-defendants.

He described Karemera as somebody who brought "a new political culture" to Rwanda in his capacity as president of the "national commission of synthesis", who proposed deep political reforms, including the introduction of the multi-party system and fundamental freedoms in 1991.

"He was a very open minded politician', underlined Alain de Brouwer, giving in particular as evidence an interview which the defendant had granted to a Pan-Africanist newspaper from Brussels in 1991. "We Rwandans, we have the same culture, the same language (which is very complex), the same traditions, we must absolutely safeguard this national unity", said Karemera.

Alain de Brouwer added that Karemera had called for political dialogue in Rwanda and the rejection of war. The government was then at war with the rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), who are currently in power in Kigali. Karemera had said that "the RPF can entirely find its place in the multi-party system", added the witness.

Karemera's co-defendants are Mathieu Ngirumpatse and Joseph Nziororera, president and secretary-general respectively of the former MRND.

Alain de Brouwer said that Ngirumpatse was responsible for the introduction of the amnesty laws when he was minister of justice in 1991. He saluted his determination "to continue to support the Arusha Accords and their application towards and against all odds".

The Arusha Peace Accords were signed in August 1993 between the Rwandan government and the RPF. They were never put in place because of the start of the genocide in April 1994.

The prosecution affirms that Nzirorera formed part of the extremist politicians, opposed to these accords which envisaged, inter alia, the division of power between the principal political forces of the country.

Known as "Karemera Trial", the case, which had to be re-tried, started in September 2005. It is expected to continue beyond 31 December, 2008 the scheduled date for the end of all the first instance trials.

Prosecuted for genocide and crimes against humanity, the defendants have pleaded not guilty. They have been in custody for around ten years.

Alain de Brouwer began his testimony on Monday. He continued it Tuesday afternoon. His last testimony at the ICTR dates back to last February. He had been called by the lawyers of the former chief of staff of the Rwandan gendarmerie, General Augustin Ndindiliyimana.

© Hirondelle News Agency