A decision by France to re-open a probe into the 1994 shooting down of then-president Juvénal Habyarimana could once again lead to a break in diplomatic relations between the two countries. Kigali and Paris had made great strides on the path to reconciliation and it’s not clear what could have prompted the latest breach of détente. According to a report in the Globe & Mail, a confidential 12-page statement by former Rwandan army chief, Gen.Kayumba Nyamwasa, sparked the reopening in France of a formal investigation into Habyarimana jet attack.
Nyamwasa lives in South Africa after fleeing Rwanda where he is wanted on criminal charges. He has since become a critic of Kagame. He has accused Kagame of orchestrating assassination attempts on him.
An earlier French inquiry in 2006 named Nyamwasa himself as one of nine Kagame aides who were involved in organising the missile attack on the Habyarimana jet. It is not clear now how the French plan to shift the blame to Kagame and absolve Nyamwasa.
The South African government has reportedly refused Nyamwasa to travel to France to testify to the inquiry.
The Globe & Mail says it has accessed the document and that it accuses President Kagame of direct involvement in the 1994 missile attack that killed former president Juvénal Habyarimana. The Globe and Mail says the attack on Habyarimana is what led to the genocide in which an estimated 800,000 people, mainly Tutsi were killed.
The newspaper says French investigating magistrates decided to reopen the probe after Kayumba’s sworn statement was submitted to them.
Most of the allegations are not new and President Paul Kagame has refuted them in the past.
Past probes by Rwandan and French judges have concluded that the plane was shot down by Habyarimana’s elite brigade that was located within Kanombe Military Barracks in Kigali.
In 2004, Rwanda set up a National Independent Commission to gather evidence of French Government involvement in the 1994 genocide. The commission commonly referred to as the Mucyo Commission after its Chairman, released its 331-page report in August 2008.
The report detailed French complicity and conspiracy to genocide. The Commission found that the French was involved in covert weapons dealing and training of interahamwe militants before and during the genocide, providing protection and shelter for some of the worst genocidaires, illegitimate humanitarian aims during Operation Turquoise and even French black ops on the ground of Rwanda during the genocide.
Following reports of France re-opening the case, President Kagame on Oct.10 while presiding over the launch of the new Judicial Year 2016/2017 at Parliament, repeated his challenge to the French authorities.
Speaking on the issue of international justice, President Kagame described the French action as “duplicity that Rwandans are used to”. He said Rwanda did not expect the duplicity to end soon.