Arusha, February 24, 2010 (FH) - Genocide-convict and former Rwandan Mayor Laurent Semanza denied Wednesday before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that he conspired with the former Secretary General of then Rwandan ruling party (MRND), Joseph Nzirorera, to commit genocide in 1994. 

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‘'We were entrusted with the responsibility to help people and to provide guidance. How can I and Nzirorera agree to commit crimes?,'' asked Semaza, aged 66, during his examination by one of the defendant's counsels, Patrick Nimy Mayidika.

Semanza was testifying in defence of Nzirorera who is tried jointly with two other senior leaders of the MRND, the party's former President, Mathieu Ngirumpatse, and Vice President, Edouard Karemera.

He acknowledged that he had entertained cordial relations with the accused, both being members of the same party.

‘'The name of Nzirorera was not even mentioned in my indictment,'' remarked the old man who served as Mayor of Bicumbi commune for 24 years consecutively until he was removed in 1993.

Semanza, who is serving a 35-year jail term in Mali, also denied that he participated in a security meeting with Nzirorerea allegedly held in an office at Kigali Ville prefecture on April 30, 1994.

‘'Prosecution witnesses told lies. We did not attend such a meeting. I did not even have an official position at that time", Semanza claimed.

According to the indictment, during the meeting, Nzirorera thanked the Interahamwe militiamen of Kigali for their ‘'good work'' (of killing Tutsis) and offered them money to buy beers.

The three former party leaders are held responsable, on account of their "superior responsibility", for crimes committed by their subordinates, MRND party members and, in particular, Interahamwe militiamen.

The trial continues on Thursday.


© Hirondelle News Agency