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Rwanda genocide: Will new report close the book on who started it?

The Mutszini report released Monday collects new Belgian military testimony, ballistics investigations by British experts, previous UN reports, and some 557 witness testimonies – in an effort to take a definitive position on the April 6, 1994 presidential assassination that started the Rwanda genocide.

By Staff writer / January 12, 2010

United Nations peacekeepers, right, pass near a Rwandan Hutu rebel, left, as they patrol near a UN peacekeeping encampment in the heart of territory held by Rwandan Hutu rebels, the FDLR, near the village of Kimua, eastern Congo, Oct. 2.

Rebecca Blackwell/AP/File

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Paris

Missiles that brought down the Falcon 50 aircraft carrying former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana days before he was to implement a peace accord – thus triggering a genocide of more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus – were fired from a base operated by Mr. Habyarimana's own presidential guard, according to the most comprehensive report on the events of April 6, 1994, released Monday by Rwandan President Paul Kagame's Tutsi-dominated government.

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The inquiry - ordered by Mr. Kagame's regime in the wake of a disputed 2006 French judicial finding that Kagame's Tutsi rebels actually fired the missiles that sparked the genocide - adds a large weight to scales of justice implicating Hutu supremacists in a conspiracy to foment genocide.

“All the evidence points to the idea that missiles were fired inside or near the Kanombe base … which effectively implicates [Hutu extremist Col. Theoneste] Bagosora,” says Andrew Wallis, British expert and author of “Silent Accomplice," a book on the genocide. “Allegedly, Habyarimana’s wife herself [a known Hutu extremist] knew the attack was coming."

The exhaustive Mutszini report collects new Belgian military testimony, ballistics investigations by British experts, previous UN reports, Western authors and researchers, and some 557 witness testimonies in an effort to take a definitive position on the April 6 assassination that started the genocide.

Hutu political groups based outside Rwanda, where they are free to criticize Kagame's tightly controlled regime, call the report propaganda. In France, the report is sensitive. French relations with Kagame's government are in the process of recovery after French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere’s conflicting 2006 report took bilateral ties to an all-time low. That report was based on the testimony of four individuals, two of whom have now recanted.

Yet with French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner in Rwanda last week – and with French president Nicolas Sarkozy traveling there this month – French leaders appear to be tacitly accepting the new findings. That’s a significant change, given Kagame government claims of extensive French involvement in the training and support of Hutu extremists, including Col. Bagosora, a charge the French have denied. Bagasora has been convicted of genocide in the Tanzania-based UN tribunal on Rwandan war crimes.

A shrouded issue

For years Habyarimana’s assassination has been the most vexing and shrouded issue in assigning responsibility and clarifying history on the onset of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide: If Hutu extremists were culpable, it suggests a coup d’état and conspiracy to commit genocide. But if, as the French have long claimed, Kagame is to blame – Judge Bruguiere’s view – then the genocide was a result of mob anger caused by Kagame.

The crux of the issue has been where the missiles were fired. The Bruguiere report, which removed the finding of Tutsi complicity, says the missiles came from a zone controlled by Kagame’s forces. A United Nations report shortly after the crash found it was at or near Kanombe, held by Hutus.

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