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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 May, 2005, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Minister says sorry for genocide
Gacaca grassroots court in Rwanda's central Mayange region on 10/03/05
'Gacaca' courts are being held in villages around Rwanda
Rwanda's defence minister has apologised for being part of the Hutu government behind the 1994 genocide.

General Marcel Gatsinzi was speaking at a village or "gacaca" court in a football stadium attended by some 4,000 people in the southern town of Butare.

He said he was sacked as chief of staff shortly after the killings began because of his moderate views. He was not accused of killing anyone.

Some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered in 100 days.

Correspondents say this is the first time a senior figure in the government which presided over the genocide has apologised.

Gen Gatsinzi, a Hutu, was accused of failing to stop his troops carrying out killings.

He insisted he was innocent and said one of his first orders had been to stop the killing of civilians.

The "gacaca" courts have been set up to give local Rwandans a chance to challenge some of the hundreds of thousands of people accused of peripheral involvement in the genocide.

He is the highest-ranking member of the government to appear before such a court.

Serious cases are being considered by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in Arusha.

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