The New Times (Kigali)

11 January 2013

Rwanda: New Questions Over Habyarimana's Plane Crash

A French newspaper, Libération, has revived questions about the role of the French government in the downing of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana's plane in April, 1994.

The paper points to the mysterious death of three French citizens, including two policemen who were operating radio transmission for the Embassy of France in Kigali and the Rwandan army (FAR) at the time, and the wife to one of the officers.

Libération reported yesterday that circumstances surrounding the duo's death have remained a top secret within the French system, adding that the death certificate issued by the French army for one of the officers was falsified.

There is suspicion that the two French gendarmes, Alain René Maier and Didot, intercepted confidential radio conversation just minutes before the shooting down of Habyarimana's (pictured) Falcon 50 jet.

French anti-terrorist judge Marc Trevidic, who has for long been investigating the cause of the crash which occurred as the ill-fated plane approached the Kigali International Airport on the evening of April 6, 1994, also established that the death certificate in question had been forged.

Questionable death certificates

The bodies of the three French citizens were repatriated to France where a French military physician issued a medical report.

The certificate in question indicates that the deceased died of "accidental death", but the doctor whose signature appears at the bottom of René Maier's death certificate draws much doubt on its authenticity, reports Libération.

In Kigali, the latest reports confirm a long-held suspicion that the French government, under François Mitterrand, may have collaborated with the extremist elements in the former Rwandan army, including Genocide convict Theoneste Bagosora, to assassinate Habyarimana and create a pretext to commit the Genocide against the Tutsi.

The attack was immediately followed by the Genocide which claimed the lives of more than a million people before it was brought to an end by the then RPA rebels in July, 1994.

"Liberation is not saying something new; it is saying something that has been known for a long time, about the cover-up of events surrounding the shooting down of Habyarimana's plane," Rwanda's Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama told The New Times yesterday.

He added, "The death of these French officers on April 8, and later on the death of the wife of one of the French officers (Didot), who started asking questions about their death, has always been a mystery."

Karugarama said it was important to recall that the officers were in charge of communication between Paris and the Rwandan army at the time - through the French embassy in Kigali.

He wondered why the French authorities falsified the death certificates of the police officers.

"There was a cover up of how, where and why they died, the medical report was falsified. What's surprising is that nobody in the French establishment at the political or military level has raised questions about the deaths of these police officers," the minister said.

He added, "They were definitely killed. Why were their deaths kept secret? Could they have landed on confidential information about the shooting down of the plane that they were not supposed to know and paid heavily?"

Karugarama said the circumstances surrounding the death of the officers were manipulated as much as those surrounding the plane crash itself.

"After the plane crash, the French and their Rwandan counterparts cordoned off the scene of the crash and the plane was disremembered of all its communication equipment and gadgets. Where are these gadgets?

"One thing is clear, if the messages in the Black Box were pointing at the RPA (a rebel movement at the time of the attack), that information would have been made public; the reason why it was not made public is because the information was not pointing at the RPF yet those behind the attack wanted to manipulate the story," he said.

He added, "Once the French citizens know the whole truth and realise that the French authorities falsified a medical report to cover up the deaths of their citizens, I think the French people will be shocked and horrified, and most likely people will demand explanations. They will ask why the medical report was falsified."

"Truth passes through fire but does not burn, eventually the truth will triumph; this will definitely happen much sooner than later."

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