A Discomforting Belgian Witness To Habyarimana Plane Shooting

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The ghosts of truth could be haunting France every second, despite 22 years of denial of its role in a plane crash that was carrying former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.

For more than two decades now, France, accused by Rwanda of its role in arming, financing and helping conduct the 1994 genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, has reluctantly denied having any hand in the tragedy.

Since the end of genocide against Tutsi in 1994, France was put on spotlight by Rwanda for having orchestrated the genocide.

In 2012, an investigation by French Magistrate Marc Trévidic found beyond reasonable doubt that a plane which was carrying the President was shot down by a missile from Kanombe military barracks which was occupied by government.

However, in a new dramatic development recently, France suggested that a new investigation be conducted to thoroughly expose what exactly happened. But what could be pushing France’s foot?

As exposed by The New York Times, France could be dancing on a boiling egg of truth that will one be clearly exposed.

In its November 12, 1994 article titled: Unsolved Rwanda Mystery: The President’s Plane Crash, The Times published damning evidence behind how French soldiers may have secretly shot down the former President.

In its article, based on series of interviews it conducted with eye witnesses, its assessment of investigations carried out by a team of Belgians, there is no doubt France directly had a hand in the killing of President Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart-President Cyprien Ntaryamira.

The Times’ investigation

Despite a France-supported view that the shooting of former President Habyarimana’s plane was conducted by former Rwanda Patriotic Army, The Times breaks down a lengthy article detailing how things unfolded a day before April 6, 1994, when President Habyarimana was killed.

On the morning of April 6, 1994, Paul Henrion, a Belgian national who has lived most of his 60-some years in Rwanda, was taking a boat engine that he had repaired to Lake Muhazi in Eastern Rwanda.

As he drove past Masaka area in the outskirts of the capital Kigali, Mr. Henrion says  during an interview with The Times, he noticed a military vehicle with a piece of artillery behind it.

Mr. Henrion, who has also spoken to Belgian investigators, said the presence of the artillery piece surprised him because under a peace agreement then in effect, heavy weapons were to be kept in compounds.

So he ordered his driver to slow down. He then noticed that among the dozen black soldiers standing there, two were wearing Rwandan Army uniforms that were newer than the uniforms of the other soldiers.

Each had a weapon slung over his shoulder. These weapons were about four feet long and covered, Mr. Henrion said. But what stood out most, he said, was the manner in which they wore their berets.

Given that the Rwandan soldiers wear their berets cocked over the right eye, it drew Mr. Henrion attention.

These two soldiers, said Mr. Henrion, were wearing theirs over the left. Returning to Kigali early in the evening, Mr. Henrion said he drove past the same spot and the military post was still there.

Forty-five minutes later, President Habyarimana’s plane, which was also carrying the Burundi President, Cyprien Ntaryamira, on a flight from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, crashed.

Witness testimony shows that missiles believed to have brought it down were fired from a shallow valley a few hundred yards from where Mr. Henrion had seen the soldiers, according to villagers in Masaka, who in interviews with The Times said they had seen flashes of missiles being fired and the plane go down.

The Belgian authorities, who have undertaken the most thorough investigation of the crash, have also determined that the missiles were fired from Masaka, a conclusion based on interviews with Belgian soldiers in Rwanda at the time.

According to Belgian military experts, the plane was hit by two surface-to-air missiles, probably Soviet-made SAM-7’s.

France sealing off perpetrators

While Belgian investigators concluded that it would have been virtually impossible for a rebel soldier to have reached Masaka carrying missiles from its base-then in Mulindi in Northern Rwanda which is miles away from the capital Kigali, The Times article cements that it was difficult for RPA rebels to infiltrate and put a base in Masaka-only two miles from several well-protected Government installations, including Kanombe military base, the most important in the country, the presidential palace and the airport.

The Belgians believe that the two soldiers Mr. Hernion saw were French, possibly natives of Martinique or Guadeloupe, in the West Indies.

French soldiers wear their berets cocked over their left eye, and when on training missions in a foreign country, they wear the uniforms of the host country-an assertion that supported Mr. Hernion’s suspicion of the soldiers at the Masaka barricade.

In interviews with three Europeans living in Kigali, The Times says in the article that they had known socially a French-speaking soldier named Etienne. They said the last they knew, he was stationed in Burundi, where he was involved in training the presidential guard.

In their support, the Belgian investigators have concluded that “Etienne” is a code-name.

Investigators said that they know his real name, that he is a senior enlisted man, about 30 years old, who is an artillery specialist.

Despite these Belgian investigators having not interviewed “Etienne,” and they doubt the French or officials in Guadeloupe or Martinique will make him available.

The Belgian investigators have received no cooperation from the French, according to Belgian officials.

With The Times article which details several credible sources and interviewees, it clearly shows France spends sleepless nights trying to conceal evidence behind its role in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.

Will France finally accept its role in this tragedy? Like President Kagame once said; ‘Les faits sont têtus’

Below is a link to The New York Times





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