ARUSHA 22 May 2002 (Internews) Genocide suspect Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, not national chairman Martin Bucyana, was the effective head of the alleged extremist Coalition for the Defense of the Republic (CDR) party, an expert witness today told judges at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
Testifying for the prosecution in the so-called “Media Trial” against Barayagwiza, Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze, Alison Des Forges, a Rwandan historian and Human Rights Watch advisor, told the court that although Bucyana was the official CDR head, Barayagwiza exercised the real authority over the party’s affairs.
Des Forges’ testimony focused on the historical background of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. She detailed the roles played by the three defendants, who are charged with using their respective media to incite the genocide.
Barayagwiza and Nahimana are founding members of the Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) and Ngeze is former editor and owner of ‘Kangura’ newspaper. The prosecution alleges that RTLM broadcast “hate” messages against ethnic Tutsi, and that Kangura published anti-Tutsi articles, inciting the April-June 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The prosecution also alleges that the three accused had strong links to CDR and to the Movement of the Republic for National Development (MRND) party, as well as to the militia of the two parties, the Impuzamugambi and Interahamwe, respectively.
According to Des Forges, CDR’s position on the Arusha Accords, signed in 1993 between the government and the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), was that the agreement would inevitably lead to violence.
“CDR maintained that the conflict was an ethnic conflict and so should have been dealt with in such a manner,” Des Forges said. Quoting from Barayagwiza’s book ‘Le Sang des Hutu il n’est il Rouge? (Isn’t the Blood of the Hutu’s Red?)’ and other documents, Des Forges underlined the message that the Arusha accords were “a humiliation of the national army and that the conditions imposed by the accords were similar to those that would be imposed on a defeated army and this situation could lead to chaos.”
Des Forges testified that in his book Barayagwiza argues that people supporting the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) are traitors and, using to the example of collaborators in the Second World War, and that they should be sentenced to death.
“[He] was advocating the use of deadly force on people identified as enemies,” the expert said.
Des Forges told the court yesterday that a military document circulated towards the end of 1992 defined the principal enemy as “Tutsis within or outside the country who are nostalgic for power and have not and will not recognize the reality of the achievements of the 1959 revolution and who are intent on taking power by the use of force.”
A secondary enemy was defined as anyone assisting the principle enemy. The witness pointed out that using this definition; it was possible to expand the circle of who could be defined as an enemy so that it no longer meant just the RPA but also ethnic Tutsi and ethnic Hutu suspected of being associated with it.
Des Forges stated that CDR was not the only group that resisted the Arusha accords. She notes that while the Arusha negotiations were ongoing, RPA forces launched an attack towards Kigali in February 1993, in which they “gained a lot of ground.”
“It came as a shock … the government actively organized the civilian population in self-defense,” Des Forges said. She added that the assassination of Burundian President Melchior Ndadaye in Bujumbura and allegations that his body was mutilated, increased fears about the role that RPA would play in Rwanda after the implementation of the Arusha accords.
Des Forges stated that during this period, leaders as well as the media called upon the population to be actively involved in the war effort. She added that the military recommended that civilians be armed and that in 1993 twice as many machetes were imported than in 1992. The witness emphasized that in October 1993, businessman and alleged RTLM president Felicien Kabuga imported 26,000 kilograms of machetes.
“A machete is a very durable tool. Unlike the hoe which has to be replaced every year, a machete can last a long time and the importation of such a large number of machetes raises questions on what use they were to be put to,” Des Forges asserted.
Des Forges said that arming civilians with machetes also indicated the type of use intended. “If you are sending the civilians with machetes against a professional army then you do not expect them to have a lot of success but if you are sending them against unarmed civilians then you can expect them to be able to kill a substantial number,” she said.
Moreover, the media undermined the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Rwanda, particularly the Belgian contingent who was portrayed as being pro-RPA, the witness told the court.
Des Forges noted that Belgium was seen as being on RPA’s side because Brussels refused to hand over a consignment of arms ordered by the Rwandan government despite the fact that it had been paid for. According to Des Forges, the reason behind Belgium’s refusal to hand over the consignment was that the laws of the country forbade the sale of weapons to a country at war.
Des Forges said that Kangura and RTLM, as well as other media, portrayed the Belgian UN troops as having sexual relations with Tutsi women. She noted that such reports made the population “feel abandoned” and that it was up to them to resolve the problems confronting them. Des Forges continues her testimony before Trial Chamber I of the ICTR, comprising Judges Navanethem Pillay of South Africa (presiding), Erik Mose of Norway and Asoka De Zoysa Gunawardana of Sri Lanka.