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Kagame warns of ‘showdown’ with France over genocide probe

Paul Kagame speaking in Kigali today
Paul Kagame speaking in Kigali today

Kigali, Rwanda | AFP | 

Rwandan leader Paul Kagame warned Monday of a “showdown” with Paris after French investigators last week said they would reopen a probe into the genocide-triggering assassination of president Juvenal Habyarimana.

The shooting down of Habyarimana’s French-crewed plane on April 6, 1994, kickstarted the genocide that claimed around 800,000 mostly Tutsi lives.

French investigators announced last week they were re-opening a probe into the killing in order to hear evidence from a dissident general who says Kagame was responsible.

The revival of the investigation has angered Kagame, who said it threatened to damage diplomatic relations with France which have only slowly been rebuilt since the genocide. France was seen then as supporting the Hutu regime that carried out the bulk of the killings.

“We wanted to have a good relationship, we wanted to clear this case that shouldn’t have been there in the first place,” Kagame said in a speech to parliament.

He said that if the French investigation was to “start all over again” then so might relations between Rwanda and France.

“Starting all over again means a lot of things in my view. First, starting all over again means I have to remind some people that this Rwanda, the judicial system of Rwanda, is not subordinate to France or to France’s interests,” he said.

“It is France that should be in the dock being tried, not anybody in Rwanda and not Rwandans.”

“If starting all over again is a showdown we will have a showdown, there is no problem about that,” Kagame said.

A Rwandan commission of enquiry found Hutu extremists responsible for the assassination, while the French investigation was inconclusive after exhausting all leads.

But now a deposition submitted by former Rwandan army chief and one-time confidant of Kagame, Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, has once again pointed the finger of blame at Kagame.

In his deposition, Nyamwasa said that on April 6, 1994 he heard Kagame himself say that “Habyarimana’s plane was brought down by our own (RPF) forces”.

The deposition led French investigating magistrates to formally ask South Africa — where Nyamwasa lives in exile and has survived at least two attempts on his life — for its cooperation in having Nyamwasa questioned.

The row over responsibility for shooting down the plane has soured Rwanda-France relations with diplomatic ties severed between 2006 and 2009.


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