By Atukunda Patience
The recent decision by French investigative judges Jean-Marc Herbaut and Nathalie Poux to “definitively” close, for lack of evidence, the investigation into the shooting down of the plane that was carrying President Habyarimana in 1994 has hit revisionists of the Genocide against the Tutsi – and their hidden hand, President Museveni – particularly hard. The unifying feature for this group of people is their hatred of Rwanda’s leadership; with the revisionists’ single, overriding wish being it (Rwandan leadership) could be made to disappear off the surface of earth. In addition to the grief it’s inflicted on them, the decision by the French court now has them in a panic attack.
Unsurprisingly, the loudest proponents of the theory that the shooting was at the hands of the RPF have been those with a stake in the revisionist history. In this group you have individuals such as Filip Reyntjens, a Belgian academic that was a close associate of President Habyarimana. The former chaired the committee that drafted Habyarimana’s 1978 Constitution that provided the grounds for discrimination, abuse, and ultimately the attempt to completely wipe out Rwanda’s Tutsi population in the 1994 Genocide.
After the genocide Reyntjens returned to Belgium where he has continued a career whose central feature is hatred of the RPF leadership. It is this vendetta that drove him into the welcoming arms of Jean-Louis Bruguière, France’s then chief investigating magistrate in charge of counter-terrorism affairs. Bruguière was seeking anything to help him prove claims allegedly made to him by members of Uganda’s military intelligence that the missiles used in the attack were given to the RPF by Uganda.
In Kampala the Belgian Professor found an ally with whom they shared a deep-seated hatred of Rwanda’s leadership: President Museveni. The plane inquiry was a prized gift that excited both Museveni and Reyntjens. They got carried away. Consequently, Reyntjens failed to adequately verify the claims of the informants, many of whom had been coached on those claims by President Museveni.
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Even as he instructed his senior officers to accuse Rwanda of downing the plane, the only ‘evidence’ they could provide was that it had been Uganda that had procured, on behalf of the RPF, the missiles used in bringing down the plane. How Museveni could believe that he could peddle a lie to falsely accuse Rwanda’s leadership without implicating himself is simply impossible to comprehend.
Similarly, Kayumba Nyamwasa made numerous claims in the media – including the BBC – that he intended to travel to Paris as a key witness in the case, given his position in the RPF at the time of the downing of the plane. He too had no qualms about fabricating evidence against Rwanda’s leadership, even if that required falsely admitting that he was a key actor in the downing of the plane, while simultaneously denying his own involvement – in essence adopt a contortionist position so as to have his cake and eat it too.
One will remember Affaire Ruzibiza, Bruguière’s “star witness.” Abdul Joshua Ruzibiza was one of those Museveni (and some members of the French establishment that had worked closely with the Habyarimana regime) encouraged to corroborate Bruguière’s concocted scenario of an RPA commando being responsible for bringing down the aircraft. Ruzibiza did just that, only to recant his story eventually. Emannuel Ruzigana who was similarly used in the case also recanted, “I categorically refute what has been attributed to me, I told you that I don’t know who shot down the plane, my response created anger and you dragged me out of your office.” These are some of the people who were courted to Kampala for coaching before appearing as witnesses in Paris.
When Judge Marc Trévidic replaced Bruguière on the case, he decided to restart it from a scratch. He discarded the entirety of Bruguière’s politically-contaminated case based mainly on fabricated evidence that had drawn derision from the legal fraternity in France and globally.
Most importantly, Judge Trévidic (and Nathalie Poux another magistrate) decided it was essential to travel to Rwanda for on-the-scene forensic investigations, something his predecessor had not done – to the bafflement of legal researchers who couldn’t comprehend how one could build a case without it.
It is evidence from that crime scene investigation, along with the associated ballistic analysis that led Judges Trévidic and Poux to conclude that President Habyarimana had most probably been assassinated by elements from within his own Presidential Guard barracks in Camp Kanombe. Exhaustive analysis of the trajectory of the missiles that brought down the aircraft showed that was where they originated.
This ruling, now confirmed, has “definitively” closed the case. It’s over. For good. This is the new reality that has an assortment of individuals – genocide deniers and revisionists, as well as their allies, i.e. the Musevenis and others – find themselves in a quandary. The case of this plane had become a veritable meal ticket for revisionists who see its definitive closure as a direct threat to their own livelihoods, and, for the likes of Reyntjens the evaporation of claims upon which their very status in academic circles rested. With the official repudiation, by French justice, of the claim of RPF culpability that he has pushed so single-mindedly, Reyntjens is as good as history in these circles and now his vendetta is without veil.
Museveni was equally distressed. His initial reaction was to order Theogene Rudasingwa to issue a diatribe denouncing France for the “Macron-Kagame unholy pact.” One is reminded that Rudasingwa publicly claimed that the shooting had taken place while he was on official duty in Kampala on behalf of the RPF.
The gist of his entirely false and self-serving testimony that Judge Trévidic gave short shrift was that he had travelled to Kampala without knowing of any plan to shoot down the plane but upon return the then RPF Army Chief Paul Kagame confessed to him that he had indeed ordered the shooting down of the plane.
Rudasingwa does not explain why Kagame felt compelled to share that alleged confidence with him once he returned, when the latter had previously seen no need to do so about the supposed intention before the former left for Kampala!
Like Kayumba, whose RNC visitors still frequent Kampala, Rudasingwa thought he could play a similarly contortionist role of being accepted as some kind of a key witness without implicating himself. So, does Museveni and his instructions to his officers that they say that the missiles were procured by Uganda.
Habyarimana’s plane’s shooting had become everything for Kigali’s enemies. For two decades and counting, fraudulent characters calling themselves “key witnesses” were flocking from Uganda to France carrying with them “evidence” as if the plane had crashed in Kampala. With the case now closed definitively, their patron (Museveni) needs to find a new hate-driven cause to rally his flock.