Arusha, 20 May, 2008 (FH) - The former Rwandan Minister for Civil Service during the 1994 genocide, Prosper Mugiraneza, Tuesday told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that he was always worried about his life after he was suspected to be an ethnic Tutsi by some government officials shortly before the massacres began.

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Mugiraneza is on a joint trial alongside three other ministers --Casimir Bizimungu (Health), Justin Mugenzi (Commerce) and Jerome Bicamumpaka (Foreign Affairs). All have pleaded not guilty to genocide and crimes against humanity in the trial, known as "Government II".

Citing an example, Mugiraneza, an ethnic Hutu, who is testifying in his own defense, told the UN Court that a local vernacular newspaper, Kangura, published an article in January 1991 where his name appeared among others asTutsis, a situation which exposed him to a great risk of being arrested or jailed around that time because there was mass arrests of ‘ibiso' (Tutsi accomplices), supporting the then rebels, Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

The defendant, led by his American lead counsel, Tom Moram further narrated that after his appointment as minister, he heard twice from a soldier and mayor of his home commune of Gitarama, Central Rwanda, Emanuel Mugiraneza (not related) as being suspected of being Tutsi.

He said, that time it was very serious to be associated with Tutsis because it was believed that the objective of RPF and its supporters was to restore monarchy and feudal system which was abolished in 1959.

"These suspicions did not affect my position as a minister, but I and my family was always apprehensive about it", he told the Chamber.

According to Mugiraneza , Tutsis and Hutus co-existed peacefully but when the war started mistrust crept in between the two ethnic groups especially after, Hutus learned that some young Tutsis were joining the RPF ranks to fight the government of the day.

The accused elaborated that during his reign as a minister, he abhorred ethnic discrimination among staff members or any sort of hostility because of political affiliation, unlike others.

Rwanda introduced multiparty system in 1992. Apart from the ruling party, MRND, other parties formed thereafter included MDR, PL, and PSD.

Mugiraneza continues with his testimony Wednesday.

According to the UN estimates, about 800, 000 people were killed during the April-July slaughter, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The case which started in November 2003 is before Trial Chamber III presided over by Judge Khalida Khan of Pakistan. The other judges are: Lee Muthoga (Kenya) and Francis Short (Ghana).


© Hirondelle News Agency