Arusha, 13 October, 2009 (FH) - Augustin Ngirabatware was a kind of "God" in his native region, according to a witness testifying on Tuesday in the trial against the former Minister of Planning.

1 min 20Approximate reading time

Augustin Ngirabatware hails from what used to be the Nyamyumba district, in the Prefecture of Gisenyi (northwest Rwanda). He is the son-in-law of a wealthy businessman on the run, Felicien Kabuga, the alleged sponsor of the 1994 genocide.

"Minister Ngirabatware was considered a God. Everybody respected him. They did anything he asked, " said the witness, dubbed ANAK to protect his identity.

To illustrate just how much clout the defendant carried in 1993, the witness explained that Ngirabatware single-handedly obtained the release from prison of a man named Faustin Bagango who, at his instance, then became mayor of Nyamyumba.

Bagango was incarcerated for having led massacres against Tutsis and the looting of their goods in 1992-1993, ANAK said.

ICTR chambers admit facts prior to 1994 to be invoked for a better "appreciation of the context". However, in line with the ICTR's mandate, no conviction can be based on facts prior to 1994.

The witness ANAK still has to undergo cross-examination by the leading defense counsel, Peter Herbert.   

Only five witnesses of the prosecution have been heard since the beginning of this trial on September 23. The prosecution team blames protracted cross-examinations for the slow pace of the trial.

Augustin Ngirabatware, who was arrested in Germany on September 17, 2007, has been in ICTR custody since October 8, 2008.

The former minister, who is charged with genocide and crimes against humanity, is pleading not guilty.

The prosecutor alleges that he launched appeals to kill Tutsis during numerous meetings in his home region in 1994.

 Augustin Ngirabatware is also accused of having delivered weapons to the Interahamwe militia and of having used public funds to finance them.

Ngirabatware qualified from the University of Friburg (Switzerland) as a doctor of economics. He taught at the National University of Rwanda (1986-1990), before becoming Minister of Planning (1990-1994).

He fled Rwanda in July 1994 and subsequently worked in various research institutes in Gabon and in France.


© Hirondelle News Agency