19.05.09 - ICTR/KAREMERA - KAREMERA: GOVERNMENT WAS POWERLESS DURING 1994 GENOCIDE

Arusha, 19 May 2009 (FH) - The former Minister for Interior and former Vice-President of the then Rwandan presidential party, Edouard Karemera, affirmed Tuesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that the government in place during the 1994 genocide was powerless to stop the massacres.
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There was no longer any authority or respect in the country, Karemera stressed, adding that all those who moved within the country were confronted with crimes, roadblocks and massacres from rampaging groups of people.

Karemera was named Interior minister at the end of May 1994 to replace Faustin Munyazesa, who did not return from his mission abroad after the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana on 6 April, 1994.

"The power had shifted to the streets... without an enforced escort, one could be stopped by gangsters", added the former minister who was also vice-president of the then ruling National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND).

Karemera claimed that even high ranking military officers were forced out of their vehicles at some road blocks.

"The government did what it could; it was overpowered, that is why we are here [ICTR]. We were completely disarmed on all the fronts that is the truth", pleaded the former Rwandan lawyer-cum-politician.

Defending speeches made by high ranking authorities of the country during the genocide, mainly against ethnic Tutsis, he stated that the tone of messages were innocent and challenged the prosecutor to prove to him that they were coded, as have been alleged by some prosecution witnesses.

Speaking of his personal experience after his entry into the government on 25 May 1994, Karemera told the UN Court that he was caught in a completely dismantled administration.

"I did not have any means to oversee my responsibilities, to try to rectify the situation; it was a catastrophic situation for everyone", he underscored.

The former minister who has been on the witness stand since Monday will continue his testimony on Wednesday.

He is accused of crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity. He is on joint trial alongside the former president and secretary-general of the MRND, Mathieu Ngirumpatse and Joseph Nzirorera, respectively.

All three have claimed their innocence.

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