A team of French experts undertook fresh investigations into the 1994 downing of the plane carrying former Rwanda’s President Juvenal Habyarimana, yesterday released their findings, ascertaining those behind the fatal attack.
The team confirms that the missile was fired from Kanombe military barracks, where elements of the former presidential guard, the para-commando battalion, and most importantly, the AntiAircraft Battalion (LAA), were based.
The government yesterday welcomed the report of experts appointed by French Judges Marc Trévidic and Nathalie Poux, that identified Kanombe Barracks as the launch site of the missile that brought down the plane on April 6, 1994.
The plane was shot down as it prepared to land at Kigali International Airport, bringing back Habyarimana from Tanzania on an official mission.
The crash served as an excuse for key perpetrators to execute a meticulously planned Genocide against the Tutsi.
Reacting to the report whose investigations began in September 2010, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Government Spokesperson, Louise Mushikiwabo, said the findings corroborated what the government had earlier confirmed.
“Today’s findings constitute vindication for Rwanda’s long-held position on the circumstances surrounding events of April 1994.
“With this scientific truth, Judges Trévidic and Poux have slammed shut the door on the 17-year campaign to deny the Genocide or blame its victims,” Mushikiwabo emphasised.
She said it was now clear to all that the downing of the plane was a “coup d’état carried out by extremist Hutu elements and their advisors who controlled Kanombe Barracks”.
Mushikiwabo said that for the people of Rwanda, the report is viewed as the result of high quality investigation commissioned by French magistrates with impeccable credentials, and carried out by world-class experts.
She noted that the report clears those falsely accused of shooting down the plane and brings a decisive end to the lies and conspiracy theories that have, for too long, tried to divert the world’s attention from the actual authors of horrendous crimes that took place in Rwanda during the Genocide.
“Rwandans welcome the findings that shed more light on a vital part of our country’s history. We continue, undeterred and undistracted, with the vital task of nation-building for generations to come,” she added.
In 2006, a French judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, accused members of the current government of involvement in the assassination of Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart, Cyprien Ntaryamira.
The latest development comes after the two judges who replaced Bruguière after the two countries restored diplomatic relations in 2009, agreed to carry out fresh investigations into the crash.
Bruguière’s approach was widely seen as having been highly politicised and his methods neglected physical evidence as he favoured hearsay accounts.
Judges Trévidic and Poux will today hold a press conference to expound more on the findings of the 400-page report whose release has been postponed several times.
Survivors welcome findings
Genocide survivors have welcomed the findings of a team of French experts that investigated the shooting of the plane.
Janvier Forongo, the Executive Secretary of IBUKA, the Umbrella association of Genocide survivors’ associations, told The New Times that they welcome the report.
“First, as representatives of Genocide survivors, we would like to commend the experts for a job well done.
The experts having not gone by what had been reported in the papers, and taking their time to come to the ground to find out what exactly happened, is something commendable.
“This brings to an end the pointing of accusing fingers by various sides,” Forongo said.
He noted that while the findings are welcome, the next step should be naming the culprits behind the shooting and if possible, bring them to book.
“At this point, justice should take its course. Genocide survivors demand for justice and rightful compensation now that the truth has finally come to light,” Forongo said.
The findings of the French report, without any doubt, vindicate the 2009 findings of an independent Committee of Experts created in April 2007 to establish the truth regarding the circumstances of the crash of the Falcon-50 airplane.
The Mutsinzi Report, a product of a commission led by Justice Jean Mutsinzi established that the missile that downed the plane was fired from Kanombe Barracks.
With help from ballistics experts and others from the UK’s National Defence Academy, who provided scientific advice and analysis, the team collected and analysed thousands of documents and interviewed nearly 600 witnesses who either observed what happened or had information directly related to the attack.
They concluded that the 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”.
It is noted that members of Habyarimana’s inner circle, such as Col. Théoneste Bagosora, Lt. Col. Anatole Nsengiyumva, Mathieu Ngirumpatse and Joseph Nzirorera, viewed the accords as an existential threat to a Hutudominated Rwanda as well as their own political and economic standing.
These men were not simply opposed to a reconciliation process; they were committed to the wholesale extermination of Tutsis.
The findings put into light earlier findings by Judge Bruguière, who many thought, as it was later to be found out, that the judge was driven by political motives.
The two French judges together with a team of experts in aeronautics and ballistics arrived in the country in September 2010 and embarked on a week long investigation into the shooting of the plane carrying former Presidents Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian Cyprien Ntaryamira, and 11 others.