PROBE - An independent commission of inquiry has been set up to investigate circumstances under which a plane carrying former president Juvenal Habyarimana crashed, killing him and others on board. The government had recommended the establishment of the probe team about six months ago. And on Wednesday, a Cabinet meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame named High Court judge Jean Mutsinzi to head the seven-man investigation team.
A former chief justice under the post-Genocide administration, Mutsinzi will lead the commission in ascertaining the cause of the crash of the Falcon 50 Reg. No. 9XR-NN on April 6, 1994 near Kigali International Airport. The team will seek to establish who is responsible for the attack.
The assassination was immediately followed by the Genocide, which claimed at least one million people, mainly ethnic Tutsis. Mutsinzi also sits on the ten-man panel of the Africa Court on Human and People’s Rights.
Other commissioners are Dr. Jean Damascene Bizimana (vice president), Alice Rugira (secretary), Augustin Mukama, Jean Baptiste Mvano, Judith Mbabazi and Peter Mugenzi.
Bizimana and Rugira are also members of another probe team charged with adducing evidence on the role of France in the Genocide, which is commonly known as the Mucyo Commission. Rugira is the secretary of the Mucyo Commission.
The law establishing the new commission obliges all the commissioners to resign their current jobs before they would take up their new assignment. The same cabinet meeting extended the mandate of the Mucyo Commission for another one month, which expires on November 15.
“That will be enough time for us to have handed in our report because we are now finalising, said Jean de Dieu Mucyo, the president of the commission.
A French judge last year blamed the crash on RPF and issued arrest warrants for nine top Rwandan leaders, and called for President Kagame’s prosecution.
Kigali reacted angrily, blaming Paris of framing its leaders because France wanted to hide its involvement in the Genocide, and to pre-empt the work of the Mucyo Commission.
Subsequent to the warrants, Rwanda severed all its diplomatic ties with France. However, the two governments have lately been engaged in quiet negotiations, with the latest meeting bringing together Rwandan Foreign Affairs minister Dr Charles Murigande and his French counterpart Barnard Kouchner.
Meanwhile, Bizimana – one of the newly instituted Habyarimana plane crash commission – welcomed the appointment saying that the nature of the assignment was not so different from what he has been doing in the Mucyo Commission.
“It also more about research and, unlike the current investigations which involves several issues, in this particular task we shall be required to establish who shot down the plane,” Bizimana said yesterday.
He added that some of the findings by the Mucyo Commission would also be used, since there was evidence, which he said that can be referred to by the new probe team. Habyarimana died along with then Burundian president Cyprien Ntiryamira, among others.