Last week's deposition by Pauline Nyiramasuhuko\'s eldest daughter was, at best, a rare illustration of openness in court. Clarisse Ntahobali, one of seven initial witnesses called by the defence, testified using her own name, although the curtains remained closed to hide her face. She began by helping to sketch out the educational and professional career of her mother, the only woman to be indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR).
After primary school, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko went to the Karubanda School of social studies, Butare prefecture in southern Rwanda. After completing her training and becoming a social worker, she married Maurice Ntahobali in 1968, one of the few Rwandan university gratuates at the time. Ntahobali went on to become a minister, president of the National Assembly and finally rector of the Rwandan national university (UNR), in Butare. The couple had four children, one of whom, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, today faces genocide charges alongside his mother. After working in social services for many years, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko decided to enrol in the UNR to study law, in 1986. She was 40 years old. «At the time, it was uncommon for a woman of that age to go to university» her daughter proudly told the court.
In 1990 Nyiramasuhuko graduated with a law degree. Two years later, she was appointed minister of family welfare and the advancement of women in Rwanda\'s first multi-party government. She kept her post in July 1993, and continued in April 1994 during the interim government that led Rwanda during the genocide. André Guichaoua, a Western specialist on Rwanda, told the court that «the appointment of Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, who was a complete unknown in public and political circles, caused a real stir». The French sociologist argued that this «late emergence» was down to Rwandan president\'s wife, a former student at the Karabunda school, who had been «friends» with Pauline. Clarisse Ntahobali denied this. «I have never been aware of friendships between my parents and the presidential family,» she asserted. Her mother had earned her portfolio from her experience in the social services, she said. The witness then spoke of her family\'s relations with the Tutsi. «Our parents had many Tutsi family friends,» she said, including professors Pierre-Claver Karenzi and Jean-Baptiste Habyarimana, the latter who later became prefect of Butare. In April 1994, both men were assassinated.
«Your parents did nothing to save Karenzi, did they?» asked prosecutor Holo Makwaïa. «If they had known *the man+ was going to be killed, they would have done everything in their power to help him,» asserted Clarisse Ntahobali. «Your mother took part in a meeting in which the decision was taken to dismiss Habyarimana», continued the prosecutor. «I am not aware of that», the witness replied. Prefect Habyarimana, who had managed to contain the massacres in Butare, was dismissed by the interim government on 18 April 1994 and killed shortly afterwards. «Your mother is one of the people who called for the man to be killed,» pursued Holo Makwaïa. «My mother has never advocated anyone\'s murder,» retorted the witness.
Clarisse Ntahobali\'s testimony, like many of her fellow witnesses, did not cut to the heart of the prosecution\'s case. The defence repeatedly referred to crimes allegedly committed by the current governing party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, against Hutu refugees in ex-Zaire between 1996 and 1997. When the judges asked the defence not to dwell on these crimes because «the RPF is not on trial before this chamber», counsel for the accused replied: «The RPF is responsible for what we are witnessing before this tribunal; this is what I intend to prove.» Although Ntahobali\'s testimony did nothing to advance the arguments, it provided some welcome respite from the in camera hearings that are becoming worryingly routine in presiding judge William Sekule\'s chamber.