Did Rwanda’s Paul Kagame trigger the genocide of his own people? By David Himbara

By JUDI REVER Excerpted from In Praise of Blood: The Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, as published by The Toronto Star 9:00 AM, Sun., April 8, 2018

By April 1994, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) decided to go for broke by killing Rwanda’s president, Juvénal Habyarimana. His assassination set the stage for a level of mass killings that Rwanda has not yet recovered from. It was the catalyst that effectively destroyed the old order and changed the course of central African history. Which is what [RPF leader Paul] Kagame and the RPF were aiming for all along, while paying lip service to the UN, to the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) and to the peace process.

The following account of the shooting down of Habyarimana’s plane is based on separate testimonies from former RPF to the 2006 French inquiry under Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Kagame and his inner military circle held a series of three meetings in late 1993 and early 1994 to plan to shoot down the plane. The commanders present at the meetings were Col. Kayumba Nyamwasa, Col. Steven Ndugute, Col. Sam Kaka, Lt.-Col. James Kabarebe and Maj. Jack Nziza. The RPF agreed to train a team to handle two surface-to-air missiles that the RPF had secured from its ally Uganda. This team brought the weapons from northern Rwanda into the capital to a farm in Masaka. On the night of April 6, after attending a summit in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi, along with key members of the Rwandan military, boarded a French-piloted Falcon 50 jet and headed to Kigali. At 7 p.m., RPF Col. Charles Kayonga told his battalion at the Centre Nationale de Developpement (CND) to be on “stand by one” — in full battle dress and ready for an attack. By 8 p.m., the missile team in Masaka was in place, waiting for the plane to arrive. The first missile was launched but missed the plane as it approached the airport. A second missile, fired by Sgt. Frank Nziza, hit the mark, damaging the aircraft’s wing and fuselage. 

The jet exploded, killing all 12 individuals on board, including the two heads of state and the three French crew members. Most of the plane’s debris landed in the backyard of Habyarimana’s presidential home. FULL STORY