6th April 2014

On 6th April 1994, at about 8.20pm local time, a private jet carrying Presidents Juvénal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi, their entourages, and a French crew,  was struck by two surface-to-air missiles as it was making its descent into Kigali Airport in Rwanda.

Kigali Airport was named after Grégoire Kayibanda, Rwanda’s first President following its independence from Belgium and the ousting of its King, Kigeli V.  Habyarimana had himself ousted Kayibanda in a military coup in 1973.  Twenty-one years on, his own tenure of the Presidency came to an abrupt and violent end.

Rwanda understandably remembers on the anniversary of this event the loss of life in the genocide against the Tutsi population which immediately followed it.

The opportunity has also been taken, however, to lay the blame for the genocide at the door of foreign countries, notably France.  This has led to scrutiny of who might have been responsible for the downing of Habyarimana’s plane.  On the 10th anniversary, a French judge leaked a report to a French newspaper which blamed Rwanda’s current President for the demise of his predecessor:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2004/03/12/brugui-egrave-re-s-report-on-the-assassination-of-former-rwandan-president-habyarimana/

http://www.whale.to/c/BrugiereReport-English.pdf

In the 10 years since the leak of the draft of this report, some of those implicated by the French judge’s report have left Rwanda and sought political asylum elsewhere.  Attempts have been made upon their lives, in some cases successfully.  One target had a narrow escape within the last month:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/03/armed-attack-home-exiled-rwanda-general-2014369332588295.html

I had occasion to sit two weeks ago in the seat where I had sat in 1996 during a four-day conference on the reconstruction of Rwanda that I organised.  I shed a tear then as I remembered the hopes and fears that our Rwandan friends expressed.  The last conference that I organised, in Kigali in August 1997, was on the Restoration of Justice in Rwanda, and I continue to pray for that today.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5qu63xRRIo

Peter Webster

6th April 2014

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