"I did not leave Kigali between April 6 and 8, 1994 taking into consideration the deterioration of security in the city. All that is false; entirely false and even unthinkable,'' Ngirabatware told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in his examination in chief by lead defence counsel, Peter Herbert.
The former minister who was testifying on his own defence for the sixth day is accused of genocide or in the alternative conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and extermination and rape as crimes against humanity.
Counsel Herbert had earlier reminded the defendant allegations that during the time in question he (the accused) was busy in his home prefecture of Gisenyi, distributing rifles, grenades and even inciting the population in numerous meetings, calling for the massacres against Tutsis.
The witness told the Chamber presided by Judge William Sekule that having learnt the sudden death of President Juvenal Habyarimana on the evening of April 6, 1994 after his plane was shot down, he and other senior government officials in Kigali were evacuated by soldiers immediately from their residences.
He explained that they were taken to the Presidential Guard Camp at Kimihurura in Kigali where they spent sleepless nights from April 6 through the morning of April 8, when he decided to leave the camp with his family members to seek refugee at the French Embassy.
‘'There were intensive eruptions of gun fire and grenades. We would lie down; children, women and men, all of us in an attempt to save our lives'' Ngirabatware narrated.
He elaborated further that at the French Embassy he did not even attempt to set his foot out to go to his residence located around 300 meters away from the Embassy. ‘'Just to get out of Kigali town was impossible for me,'' Ngirabatware testified insisting that it was even more difficult to drive to Gisenyi, Northern part of the country.
During the first five days of his testimony, Ngirabatware gave evidence detailing his whereabouts from mid December, 1993 up to April 5, 1994 and produced several documents to substantiate his claims that within such a period he never left Kigali except on three occasion; twice he went to lecture at National University of Rwanda and the third time he was on an official mission abroad.
The documents, including minutes of meetings attended by the accused, transcripts of Radio Rwanda broadcasts and various telegrams generated by the United Nations Peace-Keeping Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) reporting about daily or weekly security and political situations during the period, were admitted as exhibits for the defence.
The witness contended that if he had been in Gisenyi as claimed in the indictment committing the said crimes, those events would have been reported by UNAMIR, Rwandan Information Office (ORINFOR) and Radio Rwanda which had their offices in the prefecture.
Ngirabatware continues with his evidence in chief next Monday.
Doctor of Economics, the former minister fled Rwanda in July 1994 and subsequently worked in various research institutes in Gabon and France. He was arrested in Germany on September 17, 2007 and has been in ICTR custody since October 8, 2008.
© Hirondelle News Agency