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RWANDA: Dallaire details military action ahead of genocide

Arusha, 21 January 2004 (IRIN) - The former Rwandan army provided weapons and training to militiamen in the months leading up to the 1994 genocide, Gen. Romeo Dallaire, the former commander of UN troops in the country, told the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) on Tuesday.

In his second day of testimony in the "Military Trial I" - for four former Rwandan military officers - Dallaire said an informant told him that weapons in the hands of Interahamwe militiamen were from the army's reserve stocks. He also said that some of the militia training was being conducted in military establishments, notably the paracommando training camp and under the supervision of the presidential guard.

He gave details about the informant, known as Jean-Pierre, whose disclosure led to attempts by Dallaire to get permission for a pre-emptive raid on arms caches that were being prepared across the country.

The failure of the international community to act on this information, which was made available in January 1994, has often been linked to the genocide that started in April 1994. At least 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus were killed in less than 100 days.

Dallaire, a retired Canadian general, is a prosecution witness in the case against Theoneste Bagasora, a former director of cabinet in the Ministry of Defence; Anatole Nsengiyumva, a former commander of military operations in the province of Gisenyi; Maj. Aloys Ntabakuze, a former commander of the army’s para-commando battalion; and Brig-Gen. Gratien Kabiligi, a former chief of military operations within the army high command.
All four have denied several counts of genocide and crimes against humanity.

Dallaire testified that Jean-Pierre, who claimed to be a recruiter and instructor with the Interahamwe militias, sought to speak to the UN because he was worried about the radical direction the Interahamwe was taking.

Over the course of several meetings, Jean-Pierre told UN commanders about the training of the militias as well as the quantity and distribution of weapons they were receiving in the months leading up to the genocide, Dallaire said. Bagasora's name was mentioned in relation to the distribution of weapons in 1993, Dallaire added.

"When implemented, this [the training of the militia] provided them with the capability of killing 1,000 people every 20 minutes," Dallaire said. "This raised the question of how many Interahamwe we were dealing with."

Dallaire added that Jean-Pierre's information was checked and found to be correct so, when he was denied permission to take pre-emptive action, he was "taken aback".

Dallaire said: "I was very disappointed and I became quite mad. If these weapons were floating around, ultimately, my soldiers around could be the victims of them."

Given security breaches in the UN mission in Rwanda, Dallaire said he felt that the UN was unable to protect him in the country. However, he said, neither UN headquarters nor any other nation was prepared to provide protection for the informant. Therefore, no further contact was made with him after 22 February 1994.

Dallaire also told the court about the military's role in the killing of 10 Belgian UN soldiers and that of Rwandan Prime Minister Agathe Uwingiliyimana, whom the UN troops were guarding.

He said that once the Belgian peacekeepers had been kidnapped, the presidential guard hunted down Uwilingiyimana and killed her and her husband. Later, he said, he found the bodies of the Belgian soldiers in the city morgue.

"I realised that we [the UN] were becoming the third force and we were being targeted and, as such, the nature of our mission was changing," he said.

The prosecution completed the questioning of Dallaire and the defence begins their cross-examination on Wednesday.

Theme (s): Human Rights,

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

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