Thoughts on the French Investigative Report into Habyarimana’s Assassination

Marc Trévidic

The investigations of French judges Marc Trévidic and Nathalie Poux into the 1994 shooting of president Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane, which sparked the genocide have finally gone public.
It is understood that copies of the 400 page report were handed over to the lawyers of both the Rwanda and the victim’s families . In response, the government has issued a page length document hailing the investigation as « vindication for Rwanda’s long-held position on the circumstances surrounding events of April 1994″. On the other hand, the lawyers of the victims have given a completely different interpretation.
The BBC informs us that the main outcome of the investigations is that it determines the location from which the missiles were fired. Two predominant and contesting theories have long existed. One claims that missiles were fired from Masaka (Bruguière) and another one asserts that they emanated from the Kanombe military barracks ( Mutsinzi report). The first is favored by the victim’s families and the second by president Paul Kagame’s regime. How to reconcile these two narratives has never been easy.
As it seems, the latest report moves closer to Mutsinzi’s findings by indicating that the fateful Missiles were shot from close proximity to Kanombe’s barracks–home to Habyarimana’s own presidential guards. This is good news for Kagame’s Rwanda. It means that the indictments previously issued by the French judiciary against members of Kagame’s military for this crime are now in total disarray. Though the story is undoubtedly far from over.

How did we get here?

In 2006, French anti-terrorist investigator,Jean-Louis Bruguière, was the first to launch investigations into Habyarimana’s death. Curiously, no one (including the ICTR) had bothered to do so, despite the fact that the plane was center stage to the genocide. Bruguiere’s report accused Kagame for having given the direct orders for the plane to be shot down as a delibrate provocation of genocide with a cynical bid to get power. Subsequently, several arrest warrants were issued against high ranking members of the Rwandan military, sparing Kagame due to presidential immunity.
In 2008, Rose Kabuye a top aide to Kagame was arrested in Germany during Kagame’s official visit there. She was later extradited to France to face Bruguière’s charges. The case has since been shrouded in deep mystery, and what became of it has never made it to the public realm.

Kagame « Exonerated »?

Does the new report « exonerate » Kagame as widely speculated particular in the English media? It does not appear so.
The report raises six possible locations in which the fateful missiles could have been launched. All the locations are in close proximity to the Kanombe military barracks, then under the control of Habyarimana’s troops. By inference, it is assumed that no RPF troop would have gained access to this area. Hence the conclusion that Habyarimana must have been murdered by his own troops.The logic here requires a leap of faith and is unlikely to survive scrutiny.
To be sure, the report isn’t sympathetic to Brugiere’s investigations either. In my view, the report takes us a few steps backwards into total darkness on the matter. This is the case since the report neither address the question of who and why, both crucial to deduce criminal responsibility. It is a technical piece of information that lacks useful analysis. As such, the Brugiere’s report might still have some weight as the trial evolve.
We also know that Rwanda’s jubilation is based on a partial reading of the report. While six launching sites were named, Kagame’s team focused exclusively on Camp Kanombe. The New Times, Kagame’s cheer-leading media described the report as confirming that Habyarimana;s army had killed him in a coup d’etat. This is too much exaggeration aimed at manipulating international opinion.
The Anglophone media shouldn’t fall for Kagame’s propaganda. But if they do, they have only themselves to blame. Maybe I should put this in bold letter. The issue is far from over. This is far from the « final truth » as Kigali wants us to believe.

Opposition has it Wrong

On the other hand, the opposition has also sought to play politics with the investigations. It was reported that both the RNC and Victoire Ingabire’s FDU were calling for another round of investigations. This is , in my view, completely unnecessary. In stead of calling for a new investigations, they should press for trials. Those who participated in this macabre plan, regardless of their identities, ought to face prosecution.
I have argued previously that Kagame’s camp is responsible for the criminal act that sparked the genocide. The latest report compels me to reflect and reevaluate my thoughts. I think this is a necessary part of political and moral development. No one has a complete monopoly on truth and we are all subject to human fallibility. That said, I have faith in the independence of the French judiciary, and I am willing to accept the outcome of it. Since France is one of the few states interested in getting to the bottom of this issue, disagreeing with their court ruling would be fanaticism taken too far.

A final departing point.

The last time France released a report unfavorable to Kagame, their embassy was ordered effectively closed and the ambassador expelled. Kigali staged demonstrations lasting weeks outside the closed French embassy. Even the French radio stations were pulled off the airwaves.
What follows now is a dramatic twist of events. The victim’s families in this case do not have that much political clout. And this is positive in some ways. In Kigali, people a least don’t have to worry about another week of forced protests. Similarly, French business people can, in the meantime, continue their work uninterrupted. Until when is the question that will be answered later.

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