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WIFE OF FORMER HEAD OF CONSTITUTIONAL COURT TESTIFIES ON HIS DEATH

Arusha, November 27, 2003 (FH) The wife of Joseph Kavaruganda, the former president of the Constitutional court who was assassinated on April 7, 1994, described before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR9 how her husband kidnapped by soldiers of the Presidential Guards. Called as the 32nd prosecution witness, in the trial of four senior army officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR), Mrs.

2 min 48Approximate reading time

Kavaruganda refused protective measures offered to her by the tribunal and testified openly. The widow currently lives in Belgium. She explained that shortly after the shooting down of President Juvenal Habyarimanas plane, soldiers began cordoning off the Kimihurura residential area in Kigali and started evacuating ministers from the MRND (former ruling party)Mrs. Kavaruganda cited among those evacuated that night, the former minister of health, Dr. Casimir Bizimungu, and the former minister of transport and communications, André Ntagerura. Both are on trial at the ICTR. At around five Oclock in the morning, bullets started showering on our house, it sounded like hailstones, recounted the witness, adding that their house was guarded by a Ghanaian contingent of the UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission to Rwanda). During that confusion, the UN soldiers allegedly informed them that Rwandan soldiers had come to take him away in order to block him from swearing in ministers and deputies. The Rwandan soldiers allegedly broke down the doors and forced their way into the house. She continued that at around six Oclock in the morning, the whole family was taken hostage after the soldiers had cut the telephone. The judge is said to have recognised one of uniformed soldiers, a member of the presidential guard, Captain Kabera, Habyarimanas Aide-de-Camp, who was accompanied by commandos. He (Kabera) is the leader of those sent for me, Kavaruganda allegedly whispered to his wife, as he tried unsuccessfully to have the UNAMIR intervene. Why have you forced us to break into an official residence? You have made it difficult for us, the officer is reported to have said. At one moment, Mrs. Kavaruganda broke down in tears as memories as she recalled the events. She added that in the mean time, two other ministers from the oppositon, Faustin Rucogoza (information) and Landouald Ndasingwa (Social affairs), had already been arrested. They were also murdered on April 7. Kavarugandas arrest and the evacuation of his familyCaptain Kabera allegedly told them that he had been ordered by higher authorities to take Kavaruganda where other officials had been taken. According to Mrs. Kavarugandas testimony, the whole family had at first been arrested with the judge and taken aboard a government pick up. Kabera then ordered only the judge to be taken and told his family to return home. That was the last time that we saw him. The next morning foreign radio stations and newspaper reported of his death. I do not know what they did with his bodyrecounted the witness close to tears. The president of the constitutional court was supposed to swear in the new president to fill the institutional vacuum left by the death of Habyarimana. The interim government was sworn in on April 9, two days after the murder of Joseph Kavaruganda. After receiving death threats form the soldiers and watching helplessly as they looted her house at will, Mrs. Kavaruganda and her children were taken to the Canadian embassy with the help of Minister Bizimungu. The witness concluded that UNAMIR eventually evacuated them to Nairobi on April 15, and flew to Brussels four days later. The prosecution maintains that immediately after the death of president Habyarimana, the former director of cabinet in the Rwandan ministry of defence, Colonel Theoneste Bagosora de-factotook control of political and military affairs in Rwanda. It is in that capacity that he is answerable to crimes committed by his subordinates. Considered as the master-mindof the genocide, Bagosora is jointly being tried with three other senior army officers in the former Rwandan army (ex-FAR) who are on trial for their alleged roles in the 1994 genocide. They are the former head of military operations of the army, General Gratien Kabiligi, the former army commander of Gisenyi region, Lieutenant Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, and Major Aloys Ntabakuze, former commander of Kanombe Para-military battalion based in Kigali. All four have pleaded not. The trial is being conducted by Trial Chamber One of the ICTR composed of Judge Erik Møse from Norway (presiding), Serguei Aleckseievich Egorov from Russia, and Jai Ram Reddy of Fiji. Mrs. Kavaruganda continues with her testimony Friday. KN/GA/AT/FH (ML'1127e)

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