Who killed Juvenal Habyarimana?

If you were drawn to this article thinking, well, it looks like someone might know who killed president Juvenal Habyarimana, expect to be very disappointed. We writers have a way of pegging our readers to those stories we want them to read. Some call it a technique; I prefer to call it “impact writing”.

Some stories can only be read if projected in a given way.

President Habyarimana’s death account is one which continues to fascinate. The official story (official as in acceptable to Kigali) is that the April 6, 1994 assassination of president’s Habyarimana, Cyprien Ntaryamira and some other Africans on a plane piloted by French citizens was a work of Hutu extremists, who thought that by killing Habyarimana, they would bring to an end, the Arusha Accords – which of course, it would appear, were meaningless to them.

It is an account so novel that some people are likely to still be reading, having been published in January this year. Engineered by a Rwandan government, this was and is perhaps, an investigation that many in Rwanda would have hoped would bring an end to the whole story of who killed who and why. It seems however, it did not.

Previous reports had blamed the murder of President Habyarimana to Tutsis fighting his government at the time. There is another not so popular version of the plane having simply caught fire due to a mechanical failure arising from it (Falcon 50) being struck by lightning. So with so many theories behind this story and sadly the deaths, interest has always been and remains high in trying to understand what happened that day, why, by who and whether that event actually caused the genocide.

Where as it has been hard for the families of the deceased (on the plane) to live with the feeling that it will take time, probably years before they can know exactly what happened, it is that last argument (the one of whether this act – assassination – led to the genocide) that has seen renewed interest over the years.

The genocide story as I pointed out in one of my last pieces remains one that is very carefully told. No wonder, the much contested genocide ideology law in Rwanda, which I find too vague for a 21 century nation-state, has itself failed to live up to the expectations of those who designed it, without appearing extremely draconian. Did I hear that there is a review on the same? Thing is, it is very difficult to move ahead, when you have a law or laws, whose designers have completely failed to avoid rage and anger while compiling them and expect the people to abide by the same law with calm and sanity.

Before the report about Habyarimana’s death came out in January, someone asked me if it was possible to trust and believe a version of events about the death of a victim whose death the investigator is believed to have had a role? Rhetorical I answered! I could have as well answered that it was highly doubtful. But again, I had not seen my government conduct an investigation of this magnitude before and fail. In fact there was no precedent for me to draw to. So I thought it would be incomprehensible of me to begin doubting the result of the investigation before even seeing the result. What if the commission came out with the conclusion that it no one was responsible and this was an act of God? What if the investigation came out with the conclusion that it was indeed the Tutsi rebels who shot down the plane? What if the investigation concluded that Habyarimana simply blew himself up with the help of his aides? What would I say then, having proclaimed myself on the matter? I refused to answer.

But that did not mean that there were not people who answered his question, even though it seemed rhetorical to me. Nine months on, and the story continues.

The French’s decision to head to Rwanda under the auspices of a French Judge’s directive to go investigate what happened, who killed who and who brought down the Falcon 50 would mean that despite the available official chronicle, this story is not over. Not yet.

Someone somewhere is not convinced that what we have as the official account is actually official. And you ask why? It would appear, what my friend asked me then, was a genuine question and one shared by a few others, if not many. Some people still believe in true justice. Justice done and delivered in an objective manner by impartial or people viewed as impartial. But even then, the question becomes, who is impartial? Who can we trust as having a very clean conscience to conduct an investigation that will be devoid of politics but only aim at establishing what exactly happened to the lives of so many, including two heads of state on the night on April 6. And if indeed it is true, that the events of that night led to the widespread and indiscriminate murder of innocent souls, which seemed to follow immediately after, who is to blame?

The last time a French Judge raised anything to do with an investigation into finding out about the April 6 deaths, Kigali was angry, even suspending the French Ambassador to Rwanda and severing ties with France. Today, I am pleased much as I am surprised to read the news that French Investigators are in Rwanda for a week to try and piece together in form of some investigation, what happened on the night of April 6.

I say some form of investigation because I can not see how these French investigators will manage to compile enough information to counter and prove beyond reasonable doubt to anyone especially those who are already questioning their competence on this, about what happened to the Falcon 50. But we have to appreciate hope.

The fact that Kigali has allowed France or anyone from France access into the country to conduct some sort of an investigation is a positive step in itself. As long as the Kigali government, as reported maintains and cooperates with the investigators. This might or might not have any lasting effect on the official genocide story as we know it, but at least, let us hope that it provides some details as to the fate of those on board the plane so their families can move on after years of haggling.

“We are in a new diplomatic environment. Today’s situation allows the mission to go ahead, something that was not possible two or three years ago,” Emmanuel Bidanda, a lawyer of one of the victims, told RFI. Hopefully this does not simply turn out to be a matter of only investigating the murders of just the French pilots and no one else or one where deals have already been struck to leave Pi as Pi.

…over to you my little monsters.


Author: ellyakanga

I am Eleneus Akanga. Welcome to my blog about my experience as a Rwandan journalist and all that comes with the trade in East Africa. It's been a great journey so far but very challenging at times. Join me, let's get cracking! ellyakanga@usa.com

2 thoughts on “Who killed Juvenal Habyarimana?”

  1. You cant even spell both names right. Mr. Elly Akanga, Rwanda has eluded you,much as you still want to associate with it,self-acclaimed voice on Rwandan issues.

    You are a Loser!!

    1. Liberty or whatever your name is, I might be a loser yes but what exactly is your point?

      You know what surprises me is people like you who despite the indoctrination can not even stand up to be counted. If you have an issue with anything mentioned in the article, say it and counter it with some supporting analysis. For some one who does not have the guts to even use his name on a site like this, to come up and call me a loser is really stretching it somehow. What are you afraid of, at least call yourself Tom or Dick. You can not tell me that you hate yourself so much that you would rather mascaraed as liberty!

      And who said I was the voice on Rwandan issues? Rwanda is a big country and if anything, I am a little pawn in the big Rwandan chess game. Everyone has the right to their views irrespective and if you think those who proclaim the truth as is are self proclaimed voices on Rwanda, then you need a serious re-think. Good luck mate!

      Rwanda is much more than about pretenders like yourself. Come on, if you are man enough, stop hiding in the Liberty bullshit, stand for what you say.

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