12 October 2017

Rwanda: France Should Come Clean on Genocide, Says Mushikiwabo

Photo: New Times
A French soldier supervises the training of Interahamwe militiamen. The Interahamwe killed more than 1 million Tutsi during the Genocide.

French officials should come clean on their role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, instead of continuing to cover it up with 'sham' litigations that are more political than judicial, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, has said.

Mushikiwabo was reacting to reports that judges in France had received a new witness who claims that the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) fighters had shot down the plane that was carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana in April 1994.

"There is only so much you can do to continue this cover up. These witnesses will appear every now and then, when it suits them. This simply is a case that is political and not in any way a judicial process," Mushikiwabo, who also doubles as Government Spokesperson, told The New Times.

The reports claim that a new witness, who has reportedly spoken to French judges, allegedly loaded two SA-16 missiles onto a truck, the same missiles they say were used to shoot down Habyarimana's plane, which also had on board the President of Burundi, Cyprien Ntaryamira.

"Rwanda is running out of patience with endless unjustified case fabricated by a judge in France, a political farce masquerading as justice," Mushikiwabo had twitted earlier Wednesday.

The latest reports come after two other French investigative judges, after a four year probe, concluded that there was no way the RPF could have been in position to shoot down the plane.

The two judges, Marc Trévidic and Nathalie Poux, issued their findings in 2012 which placed the shooter in Kanombe Military Barracks, a garrison of the former government forces (ex-FAR).

The barracks, as well as the nearby present-day Kigali International Airport, were overseen by French troops.

"The missile hit the left wing tank. This element alone invalidates the theory of an attack from the position of RPF in Masaka and validates that the missile was fired from the FAR-Kanombe Camp," the Trévidic report reads in part.

The two missiles that hit the Falcon 50 jet moved from right to left, and according to witnesses, came from the side of the Kanombe Camp, it added.

The findings by the judges only confirmed those of another commission of enquiry that was headed by former Chief Justice Jean Mutsinzi.

'Shot from Kanombe side'

The Mutsinzi commission had earlier on concluded that Habyarimana was killed by extremists within his own government, who feared he was buying in to a peace process that would trigger a power sharing pact with RPF-Inkotanyi.

"The April 6, 1994 assassination of Habyarimana was the work of Hutu extremists who calculated that killing their own leader would torpedo a power sharing agreement known as the Arusha Accords," reads the Mutsinzi Report in part.

The report, after extensive research, pinned senior military officers within the Ex-FAR and politicians of having hatched the plan, specifically citing Col Theoneste Bagosora, who was the permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defence, and Lt Col Anatole Nsengiyumva, the head of military operations in north-western Rwanda.

The others mentioned were Mathieu Ngirumpatse, the then president of the Genocide machinery, the MRND party; and Joseph Nzirorera, who was the secretary-general for the same party.

The quartet was all tried by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) where Bagosora was sentenced to 35 years in jail on appeal against an earlier life sentence by the tribunal's trial chamber, while Ngirumpatse is serving a life sentence.

Nsengiyunva's life sentence was also on appeal commuted to 15-years in jail, while Nzirorera died in custody before his trial could be concluded.

Why the theatrics?

The continued gymnastics by France, according to Dr Jean Damascene Bizimana, only points to a cover up of not only the French role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, but also their direct role in the shooting down of the plane.

A researcher and currently the executive secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against the Genocide (CNLG), Bizimana was a commissioner for not only the Mutsinzi Commission, but also another one earlier instituted to probe the role of France in the Genocide against the Tutsi.

Bizimana was the vice-president of the Mutsinzi Commission.

"What evidence is this so-called witness going to bring forth that was not established by internationally renowned experts, both in ballistics, acoustics and aeronautics who separately concluded that there was no way the plane would have been shot from anywhere outside of the Kanombe Barracks?" wondered Bizimana.

According to Bizimana, both the Trévidic and Mutsinzi enquiries used experts that independently carried out their investigations on the crash site and surrounding areas and arrived at a similar conclusion.

"In the Mutsinzi probe, we used ballistics experts from the British National Defence Academy - the best known in the world - and they concluded that claims that the plane could have been shot from Masaka area were just not plausible, rather, from Kanombe Barracks," Bizimana told The New Times yesterday.

He added that the same was confirmed months later by the Trevidic probe, which used French experts.

"For them, they even went an extra mile; they did dry-runs and took a plane to Rusumo area - where the Habyarimana plane came from on the day it was shot down - and all possibilities pointed at the barracks for the debris to be found where it was," said.

Following the shooting, the debris of the jet fell in the compound of the then Habyarimana's residence, in Kanombe, now the Presidential Palace Museum, where some of them still lie.

"It is not surprising that the French prosecution, instead of acting on the Trévidic findings, continues to come up with these kinds of excuses. Investigations show the French were behind this act because they supervised the Ex-FAR, specifically in the same area.

"Actually, evidence abounds that one French officer, Gregoire de Saint Quentin, who commanded the training wing of the Ex-FAR para-commandos, was in Kanombe and was the first on scene at the Habyarimana residence, immediately after the crash and the objects he collected on scene have never been found."

Bizimana said that such acts constitute trivialisation of the Genocide against the Tutsi and serves to undermine the heroic role of the RPF forces that stopped that genocide.

Rwanda last year released names of 22 French military officers who are directly implicated in the Genocide in which over a million people were killed in just 100 days.

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