France ditches Rwanda 1994 probe
Magistrates in France decided not to pursue the case against nine Rwandan civil servants accused of involvement in Habyarimana’s assassination.
The investigation sparked diplomatic tension between Rwanda and France, with President Paul Kagame’s senior advisers among those facing charges.
In October, French prosecutors called for the investigation to be abandoned due to insufficient evidence against the suspects. Habyarimana’s widow called the French decision “unacceptable” and “largely politically motivated”.
Philippe Meilhac, a lawyer for Habyarimana’s widow Agathe, said plaintiffs in the case would appeal against the decision.
“We have to interpret this decision by French judges as a form of resignation faced with a political context which prosecutors did not know how to fight,” Meilhac said. “The Rwandan authorities have never sought to help bring the truth to light.”
France launched the investigation into Habyarimana’s death in 1998 at the request of relatives of the French crew who died when a missile brought the plane down.
Habyarimana, his Burundian counterpart and eight other passengers died in the crash.
The next day, the organised slaughter began and continued for three months.
The murder of Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, led Hutu extremists to kill more than 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus who protected them.
By July 1994, Tutsi fighters from the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR), led by Kagame, defeated the Hutu militias.
The first judge to lead the French probe, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, believed it was Tutsis from the FPR who shot down the plane.
In 2012, the French judge who succeeded Bruguière cast doubt on the idea that Tutsi rebels shot down Habyarimana’s plane and suggested Hutu extremists could have carried out the act.
A Rwandan court in 2009 ruled that Hutu militants had killed Habyarimana.
The Tutsi administration has accused France of complicity in the genocide by supporting the Hutus and training some of the militants that attacked the Tutsis.
Rwanda and France broke off diplomatic ties in 2006 in a row over who killed the Hutu president. Relations were restored in 2009.
In 2010, then French president Nicolas Sarkozy visited Rwanda and admitted France made mistakes in 1994.
The following year Kagame visited Paris and said it was time to leave history behind.
In 2016, a Parisian court jailed two former Rwandan mayors for life over a massacre in their village of Kabarondo near the Tanzanian border in 1994. Around 2,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were butchered while seeking sanctity in a church. Many were killed by machete.
Rwanda in 1994. Picture credit: Wikimedia