Following the release of findings of a French inquiry led by Judges Marc Travidic and Nathalie Poux, the major question that remains is about the next step, now that the origin of the missiles that shot down the former Rwandan president’s plane has been re-established?
The findings of the ballistic and acoustic experts who were commissioned by the two judges, effectively put to rest earlier conspiracy theories that pointed at the RPF as the masterminds of the attack that killed Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994.
The 400-page report vindicates Rwanda’s own Mutsinzi inquiry, which concluded that Hutu extremists at Kanombe barracks – home to elite soldiers of presidential guard – orchestrated the deadly attack on the Falcon 50 jet as a pretext to carry out the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Mutsinzi Report, released in January 2010, particularly pointed at Col. Theoneste Bagosora, the then Director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Defence, who was vehemently opposed to a power-sharing deal signed between the RPF and Habyarimana government.
In an interview with The New Times, lawyer Bernard Maingain, who represented Rwanda’s interests in the case, confirmed that the report vindicates what had earlier been argued.
“I can confirm that I and my colleague, Lev Forster, received the entire document and all the attachments of the report of the French experts yesterday (Tuesday) in the Court of Justice of Paris.”
“I can also confirm that the main conclusion of the experts is that the missiles that hit the plane came from Camp Kanombe, and not from Masaka area,” Maingain said.
He laughed off previous arguments that the missiles that destroyed the aircraft, killing everyone on board, had been fired from Masaka hill, saying the area was also under the control of the government forces, as were all the areas surrounding the airport.
“Anyhow, the experts excluded clearly the area of Masaka. Their arguments are solid and supported by strong technical arguments like the noise of the missiles and/or the place of the impact of the missiles on the airplane... It’s game over,” Maingain said.
The counsel said the two judges, Travedic and Poux, were not yet authorised to speak publicly.
“They can only formulate their opinion in the procedure of investigation. Yesterday it was the time of the report of the experts,” said Maingain, who last evening addressed a news conference in Paris about the new report, along with his colleague.
He said the latest findings had put to shame what he termed as a ‘network’ of Genocide revisionists and apologists who had conspired to peddle lies about the circumstances under which Habyarimana had died, as well as the cause of the Genocide.
“It is a network of people such as Agathe (Habyarimana’s widow), Fabien Singaye, Paul Barril (former consultant of the late Congolese despot Mobutu Sese Seko) and false experts like André Guichaoua (French) and Filip Reyntjens (Flemish),” Maingain said.
He also named French policeman Pierre Payebien, who, he said, violated his professional duties and continued to trade falsehoods, among a group of well known Genocide deniers, responsible for much of the lies about the country’s troubled past.
“Now is the time to definitively close that file …it was a case of manipulation,” Maingain said.
The Government of Rwanda has welcomed the report, saying it was a confirmation of its long-held position about the circumstances surrounding the plane crash.
While the report is consistent with Kigali’s version it nullifies a 2006 French report, by the now retired French judge Jean Louis-Bruguiere, which had accused the RPF for the attack, resulting in the issuance of arrest warrants of nine top Rwandan officials.
As a result, Kigali broke ties with Paris, with both countries moving to mend their relations only about two years ago.
Other than Habyarimana, the shooting also claimed the lives of the then Burundian president, Cyprien Ntaryamira, three French crew members, among other top Rwandan officials.
They were returning from a summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.