Kagame exonerated over Habyarimana’s death

Sunday January 15 2012

Although Rwanda expects Spain to follow France’s cue and revise its indictments on top Rwandan officials, it’s unclear whether Kigali intends to practically make an appeal to the Spanish judicial system to that effect or to let them work it out on their own.

Last week, an investigation that French Judge Marc Trévidic commissioned into the plane crash that killed President Juvenal Habyarimana, exonerated the ruling RPF’s top political and army leadership.

“The report speaks for itself. We are waiting until it is filed and see what the court decides to do next, how it proceeds,” an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told The EastAfrican.

Trévidic’s investigation was a re-examination of work by his predecessor, Jean-Louis Bruguière, when, after taking over from him, he discovered hints of evidence tampering and political meddling in it.

Bruguière had conducted investigations without ever setting foot in Rwanda or interviewing the accused.

He touched off a diplomatic falling out between Rwanda and France in 2006 when he squarely blamed Habyarimana’s assassination on nine senior government officials and close aides of President Paul Kagame, including his former Chief of Protocol Rose Kabuye who, in 2008, was arrested at a German airport in response to his indictments.


But his investigations in part provided the basis, in 2008, for other indictments by Spanish Investigative Judge Andreu Merelles on 40 current or former high-ranking Rwandan military officials over crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and terrorism, perpetrated between 1990 and 2002 mainly against Hutu.

Like Bruguière, Merelles has never been to Rwanda and only based his investigation on testimony from 22 people who claim to have witnessed the crimes being committed in the 1990s.

Habyarimana died on April 6, 1994, together with Cyprien Ntaryamira, his Burundi counterpart, when the plane they were flying in was bombed with two missiles as it came in to land at Kigali International Airport.

He was returning from Arusha, Tanzania where he had agreed to a power sharing deal in peace talks with the then rebel RPF.

This decision had not pleased some members of his inner circle. Some of them, like Col Theoneste Bagosora, have already been tried, convicted and sentenced over genocide related crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Habyarimana’s death is believed to have sparked the genocide, which started on the night he died, and in 100 days had claimed up to 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu lives. Yet, whoever was responsible for firing the two missiles has been the source of a bitter contest over the past 18 years and a subject of six inquiries conducted nationally and internationally. 

This uncertainty has been exploited by people facing genocide charges and those who deny there was ever genocide in Rwanda.
They argue that the killings that followed Habyarimana’s death were not pre-planned as most scholarship indicates.

Rather, they were spontaneous revenge killings targeting Tutsis who, they believed, had murdered their president.

Observers of Rwandan affairs have hailed the investigation’s findings as finally putting to rest the question of who killed Habyarimana.

One of them, who has conducted extensive research in Rwanda, told The EastAfrican the report was a good vindication of the argument Kagame, and generally the RPF, have been making that they were never responsible for the assassination.