Frankfurt (Germany) – A close aide of former Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, who had been detained in Germany since July 2016 on allegations of involvement in the 1994 genocide, was released on Monday, JusticeInfo has learned. Enoch Ruhigira, the last head of presidential staff under Habyarimana, was arrested during a stopover in Frankfurt on July 20 last year, on the basis of a Rwandan arrest warrant.
The arrest warrant was based on accusations deemed unfounded by New Zealand, where Ruhigira has citizenship, and Belgium, where he had resided.
“He was released on Monday March 20 with no reasons given,” a source close to the case told JusticeInfo. “At the moment he is still in Germany and expected to return to New Zealand.”
Enoch Ruhigira, now 66, trained as an agronomist, comes from Bwakira commune in the former Kibuye prefecture of western Rwanda.
According to numerous testimonies including Belgian ambassador to Kigali at the time Johan Swinnen, the former head of presidential staff did not go with his boss to the Dar-es-Salaam summit on April 6, 1994, date of the attack which cost Habyarimana his life. The presidential plane in which he was travelling was shot down by a missile that evening as it was preparing to land at Kigali international airport.
According to the Belgian diplomat, Enoch Ruhigira had been given the task of negotiating that day with the late ex-Prime Minister Agathe Uwiligiyimana the mechanisms for setting up transitional institutions after his boss’s expected return.
The day after Habyarimana’s plane was downed, still according to Johan Swinnen, Ruhigira managed to take refuge in the Belgian embassy residence, while other senior dignitaries of the presidential party MRND, some escorted by members of the Presidential Guard (GP), took refuge in the French embassy.
Evacuated by the Belgian army
When the interim government was set up on April 9, 1994 Ruhigira, who was still at the Belgian embassy residence, was maintained in absentia in his post as chief of staff to the President, now Théodore Sindikubwabo. But Ruhigira never took up his post under Sindikubwabo because he was evacuated by the Belgian army on April 12, 1994 to Nairobi, from whence he travelled to Belgium.
A month later, Ruhigira had still not presented himself to his new boss, Théodore Sindikubwabo. In an official telegram dated May 13, 1994, and sent by the interim Foreign Ministry two days later, Sindikubwabo ordered the Rwandan embassy in Nairobi to “contact Mr. Ruhigira Enoch, Chief of Staff” of the presidency of the Republic, and “Invite him to present himself immediately to the office” of the President. The embassy was also told to “facilitate his transport to Kigali”.
But Enoch Ruhigira never went, forcing the interim government to appoint Daniel Mbangura, another MRND member, in his place.
In 2011, Ruhigira published a book called “Rwanda: the tragic end of a regime”, in which he suggests a different reading of the 1990-94 Rwandan tragedy. The book invites readers to nuance or frankly question some claims often presented as facts of general knowledge. The author denies, for example, that France lent blind support to President Juvénal Habyarimana.