1 December 2006

Rwanda: The RPF Has Torpedoed the Peace Process, Luc Marshall Declared

Arusha — The first hearing of Col. Luc Marshal, second-in-command of the military unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) in 1994 before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwandan (ICTR) has been the main event of the week. The Belgian officer immediately accused the former Rwandan rebellion of having torpedoed the peace process.

"From my experience, my conclusion is that the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front) had one goal, seizing power by force and keeping it to themselves", Col. Marshall declared. He appeared as a defense witness in the trial of four high-ranked officer of the old Rwandan Army.

Luc Marshall specified that his opinion was based on the attitude some leaders of the RPF had during weekly meetings he would preside and which officers of the regular Army attended as well.

The former commander of military operations of the old Rwandan Army, Brigadier-general Gratien Kabiligi, in the defendants' box in this trial, took part in these meetings, Col. Marshall added.

The ex-Blue Helmet has testified for the defense of Kabiligi.

Col. Marshall declared that the intransigence of the RPF shown most in the moments when the militaries had to enforce the rules about "the zone of deposit of weapons" in and around Kigali.

The peace treaties signed jointly in 1993 by the ex-government and the RPF stated that the town of Kigali and its surroundings had to be a weapons-free zone.

"Not once, never have I sensed the desire to make concessions, to smooth rough edges, to reach a consensus", Luc Marshall told the court about the RPF.

"It was almost a daily struggle, and I received remarks because of the violations of the agreement", he said.

"All these elements led me to the conclusion that their goal was certainly not to concretize the peace process", the witness continued.

"One can hardly talk about peace when the process is being meddled with", he commented.

Luc Marshall went further by saying that it was the RPF which had gunned down the plane of President Juvénal Habyarimana; the attack has been making the headlines again after the release last week of the report of the French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière which holds the sitting president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, for responsible of the attack.

"For me, it is the Rwandan Patriotic Front which has perpetrated the attack", Col. Marshall maintained.

The ex second-in-command of the UNAMIR came to testify after two other former members of the UN mission, General Roméo Dallaire (Canada) and Franck Claeys (Belgium), respectively UNAMIR commander and military information officer.

General Dallaire has testified in "Militaries II", the joint trial of four officers among whom the chiefs of staff of the Army and the Gendarmerie, and Franck Claeys has testified in the trial of the leaders of the former presidential party.

Also on the Tribunal's schedule this week: the trial of Protais Zigiranyirazo, ex-prefect of Ruhengeri (north), better known for being the brother-in-law of the deceased President Habyarimana.

Michel Bagaragaza, formerly at the head of the tea trade in Rwanda, has testified once more for the prosecution.

The judges had already heard him in June, but he was asked to reappear before the court after the Appeals Chamber rejected his first testimony on account of irregularities.

As in June, Bagaragaza, a repentant genocider, has alleged that Zigiranyirazo belonged to the "akazu" (small house), the circle of close collaborators of the former president which, according to the prosecution, had all the power before and after the genocide.

Bagaragaza notably stated that Zigiranyirazo would have facilitated massacres of Tutsis in Gisenyi (north-west), his native region.

The ICTR proceeds to Zigiranyirazo's trial in turns with the one of Father Emmanuel Rukundo, a former military chaplain in Ruhengeri and Kigali. His trial started on November 15th.

One of the witnesses who testified this week declared that Rukundo had been involved in politics since the Great Seminary. In the 1990s, he would have composed songs meant to galvanize the regular army which counted a majority of Hutus then at war with the rebels - mostly Tutsis - of the Rwandan Patriotic Front.

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