As Justice Minister, Tharcisse Karugarama, rightly observed, the recent findings of a judicial inquiry commissioned by French judges, Marc Trévidic and Nathalie Poux, perhaps marks the end of an era. It’s a story, from genesis to exit, based on a labyrinth of diplomatic furor, conspiracy theories, accusations and counter-accusations between France and Rwanda vis-à-vis, the former’s role in the 1994 genocide and RPF alleged role in downing the plane carrying Habyarimana.
In a press conference soon after the release of the findings, Karugarama dismissed claims that the report was not the end to the conflicting theories about the circumstances that surrounded the downing of the Falcon 50 jet that was carrying former President Juvenal Habyarimana. “This is a case file that is finished as far as we can see,” he said. The downing of the Falcon 50 jet has generated almost a dozen commissions of inquiry to get to the bottom-line of saga including the controversial Bruguière report, UN report, the Mutsinzi Report, the Carlson Report, the report of eminent persons, the British Military Academy and investigations by the ICTR.
The latest inquiry corroborates the Mutsinzi Report that the missiles that killed the former leader, his Burundian counterpart, Cyprien Ntaryamira, a French crew, among others, were launched from Kanombe military base, which was under the full control of Habyarimana’s elite units. The two competing theories of the incident, since hardly anyone disputes that the event was a spark to carrying out a systematically organized genocide, was that “Hutu extremists” from the Rwandan military killed the president to derail a power-sharing agreement. The other theory is that the RPF carried out the attack as the opening phase of their invasion, which quickly followed the assassination.
Upon the release of the report, Louise Mushikiwabo, Foreign Minister and Government Spokesperson said. “With this scientific truth, Judges Trévidic and Poux have slammed shut the door on the 17-year campaign to deny the genocide or blame its victims. It is now clear to all that the downing of the plane was a coup d’état carried by extremist Hutu elements and their advisors who controlled Kanombe Barracks.”
Most world media also say that the report “has not been released publicly,” but this hasn’t stopped them from running sensationalist headlines. Probably after the public release of the report, the few dissenting voices would rest their second thoughts. For the moment, it is our sincere hope that the report brings to an end the issue of who downed former president habyarimana’s plane. The next step we hope should be to name and bring to book the actual perpetrators behind the crime.