Arusha, 5 May 2008 (FH) - The National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND), former Rwandan ruling party, was uniting and reconciliatory force, stated a witness Monday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).

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The protected witness identified only by code "XQL" testified for the defence of Edouard Karemera, former vice-president of the MRND, on trial alongside two other top officials of the party.

Mrs "XQL" was for a long time a member of policy organ of the party, which was created in 1975 by former President Juvenal Habyarimana.

The witness explained at that time the country was coming out of a political crisis characterized by ethnic and regional divisions and that one party state, which was then fashionable in Africa, seemed the most suitable way to face the situation.

The MRND was restructured in 1991 when multi-party system was introduced, stated the witness, adding that the MRND also abandoned its first name but its motto, like its initials, remained the same, stated the witness.

It was "a party of peace and unity", explained the witness. She affirmed that all ethnic groups of Rwanda were represented within the MRND, before as well as after the restructuring.

"All sons and daughters of this country [Rwanda] were called to join this movement. There was no justifiable discrimination ", she claimed.

Karemera's co-counsel, Felix Sow, who questioned the witness, was attempting, by the means of her testimony, to discredit the prosecutor's allegations.

The witness also mentioned key role which was played by Karemera in the democratization of Rwanda as president of the national commission of analysis which proposed the return of the multi-party system.

"He directed this commission with a lot of determination, courage and professionalism," the witness underlined. According to her, Karemera was at the avant-garde of the reformist wing within the MRND.

The trial, known as Karemera et al., started in September 2005. Others in the joint trial are: Mathieu Ngirumpatse and Joseph Nzirorera, President and Secretary-General respectively of MRND in 1994.

All have pleaded not guilty to genocide and crimes against humanity


© Hirondelle News Agency