Habyarimana crash probe team braces for new task

Investigations into the plane crash that claimed the life of former president Juvenal Habyarimana and others will kick off in less than a month, the Justice Minister has said.
Former president Juvenal Habyarimana
Former president Juvenal Habyarimana

Investigations into the plane crash that claimed the life of former president Juvenal Habyarimana and others will kick off in less than a month, the Justice Minister has said.

Tharcisse Karugarama said yesterday that the seven commissioners named on the independent commission will have to resign their respective jobs, saying that the investigation cannot be carried out alongside other official duties.

“We decided to give them time to wind up their work before we pass the law appointing them so that they can resume work, the whole preparations will take like a month,” Karugarama said.

Habyarimana died in a plane crash on April 6, 1994 a day before the Genocide officially unfolded which would later claim at least one million people.

The plane, Falcon 50 registration number 9XR-NN, which was also carrying then Burundi’s president Cyprian Ntaryamira, was shot down near Kigali International Airport.

The probe team which was named two weeks ago by Cabinet will be chaired by Justice Jean Mutsinzi, a judge in the Supreme Court.

Mutsinzi, who is a former chief justice, also sits on a panel of judges for African court on human and people’s rights. Mutsinzi refused to comment on the new assignments.

“There is nothing I can comment regarding the commission because I was just appointed verbally. I can only comment after the Ministerial Order is published with our names,” Mutsinzi said. He said that it would be the same order that will define the modus operandi of the commission and its timeline of operation.

The justice minister said that the commission may be given a period of up to one year to compile evidence and hand over their findings to Cabinet.

The minister said that the reason the government took this initiative to appoint the commission was the fact that the international community had persistently ignored the government’s calls for the investigation into the crash.

“We think it is time for the world to know what happened. Nothing has been done by the world to investigate it….the only probe that was carried out was by the French and their findings were not concrete,” Karugarama said.

Other members of the commission are Dr Jean Damascene Bizimana (vice president), Alice Rugira (secretary), Augustin Mukama, Jean Baptiste Mvano, Judith Mbabazi and Peter Mugenzi.

The vice-president and the secretary are also commissioners to a separate probe team charged with adducing evidence on the role played by France during the 1994 Genocide. This particular commission will wind up its work next month.

Most members of the Mutsinzi commission are jurists with investigating and airport operations background. For instance, Mugenzi is a former director of Civil Aviation Authority.
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