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Former UN Commander Testifies at Rwanda Genocide Trial - 2004-01-19


The commander of the U.N. Assistance Mission to Rwanda during the 1994 genocide took the stand as a witness for the prosecution at the trial of four Rwandan military officials accused of masterminding the massacre.

General Romeo Dallaire told a U.N. courtroom that one of the Rwandan military officials on trial for a number of genocide-related charges had threatened to kill him.

General Dallaire said that Colonel Theoneste Bagosora waved a pistol at him during a meeting in April 1994 and said he would shoot the retired Canadian officer.

Colonel Bagosora was a top aide at the Rwandan Ministry of Defense. The other three accused 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 the former commander of a paramilitary battalion based in Kigali, Major Aloys Ntabakuze.

General Dallaire's testimony at a U.N. tribunal in Tanzania is expected to continue until the end of January, according to a court official, Tim Gallimore. "Whatever Dallaire knows about the work of these individuals in conducting their normal duties as military officers and how they behaved and commanded troops and subordinates during the time leading up to the genocide, I imagine he can comment on those," said the court official.

General Dallaire commanded more than 2,000 troops in Rwanda from 1993 to 1994 with a mandate to monitor a peace accord that the government and the Tutsi group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, signed in 1993.

But instead of peace, the country was plunged into a brutal civil war following the death of the then-President Juvenal Habyarimana in April 1994. An estimated 800,000 mostly Tutsis and Hutu moderates were killed during the massacre.

In a book he published last year, General Dallaire blamed the international community for ignoring his appeals for more personnel to stop the bloodbath.

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