Prosecutor steps up pressure on the akazu

05 December 2005 by our correspondent in Arusha

On November 21, Juvénal Uwilingiyimana left his home in Anderlecht, Belgium at dawn. Since then, the former Rwandan minister has gone missing. In a letter dated November 5 published on the Internet, he accuses the Office of the Prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) of trying to force him to accuse high-ranking dignitaries of the former regime. On November 29, the prosecutor replied by charging Uwilingiyimana with genocide.

Since being appointed head of prosecutions at the ICTR in May 2005, American Stephen Rapp has been determined to solve the mystery of the akazu, the name given to the inner circle around former president Habyarimana's family, whose members have been suspected for eleven years now of having organized the genocide of Rwandan Tutsis. Rapp is aware of the difficulties involved in investigating people who, according to him, could "pull strings in the dark" or "direct massacres from their living rooms," and is actively seeking testimony from members of the "akazu" inner circle, or failing that, the second circle. One of these members, Michel Bagaragaza, former head of the tea production network in Rwanda, and a close friend of the president's family, has already agreed to collaborate *IJT-36+. In his confession, he implicates another member of this "extended akazu" - Juvénal Uwilingiyimana, Minister of Commerce at the end of the 1980s and director of the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks in 1994. At the end of August, the prosecutor made initial contact with Uwilingiyimana. Meetings were held over "several weeks," explains Rapp.

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