Arusha, 6 October 2008 (FH) - On the first day of his testimony for his own defence before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, stated Monday that the reconnaissance battalion, which he commanded, was tired of the war and wanted peace after the signing in August 1993 of the peace accords.

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These texts, the fruit of a long negotiation process done in Arusha, the same Tanzanian small town where is today headquartered the ICTR, were signed by the Rwandan government and the rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF in power in Rwanda).

One of the theories of the prosecutor in several cases at the ICTR is that radical elements within the governmental army did everything to sabotage these agreements that provided, in particular, for the creation of a national army composed of the belligerent forces.

"At the reconnaissance battalion, the soldiers, of all categories, were for the application of the peace accords. They had suffered many losses of men and materials. They wished ardently that these accords would be applied as soon as possible", stated the major.

Nzuwonemenye stressed that the men of his unit were the first to be confronted with the enemy each time hostilities broke out. "They did not want any more of this devastating war", he said. In connection with the governmental forces, he stated that "many things had been done by 6 April 1994 (date of the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana) for the application of the accords". Thus, according to him, the government had already appointed their commanding officers under the terms of the protocol on the integration of the belligerent forces.

As for the troops, he added: "we explained to them demobilization (which was going to follow for certain elements).As for my unit, I had started to prepare programs for the combatants of the RPA which was going to integrate the battalion. This work, I had entrusted to a French officer who was my adviser". He will continue his testimony Tuesday.

Nzuwonemeye was named head of the reconnaissance battalion in November 2003.

He is on trial with the former chiefs of staff of the army and the gendarmerie, General Augustin Bizimungu and General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, alongside Captain Innocent Sagahutu, who commanded a squadron of the reconnaissance battalion.

Prosecuted for crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, all four have pleaded not guilty.

Their trial opened in September 2004.

The two generals have rested their cases and the captain will be, after Nzuwonemeye, the last to call his witnesses

The Trial is before Trial Chamber II made up of Judges Joseph Asoka Nihal De Silva of Sri Lanka (presiding), Taghrid Hikmet (Jordan) and Seon Ki Park (South Korea).


© Hirondelle News Agency