Inquiry in the shooting of President Habyarimana’s plane: another failed squib!

By Patrick Mbeko

In recent days, debate on French involvement in the Rwandan genocide has been revived by the French newspaper La Libération with [apparently] the discovery, this in the archives of the United Nations, of a document indicating that the Rwandan army was in possession of 15 Mistral surface-to-air missiles of French origin, and SA-7 missiles of Soviet origin, before the attack against President Habyarimana’s plane which is regarded as the trigger of the Rwandan genocide.

Since the release of the experts’ technical report (on the shooting of the presidential plane) by French judges, Marc Trevidic and Nathalie Poux, who worked on the case for nearly four years, shortly after the anti-terrorist judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, certain media circles have been rousing.

Rwandan officials and several major media rushed to conveniently interpret the report, finding in the document what it did not reflect, namely the fact that the shooting of the plane had been orchestrated by Hutu extremists.

However, the expert report in question was not intended to identify the authors of the shooting of the missiles but only to locate the place where they had been fired from.

What’s more, the procedural approach adopted by the French judges raises some questions since we now know that experts (in ballistics and acoustic) who worked on this case did not have access to all its elements because the judges were careful guiding them in their task by indicating precisely which facts and aspects of the case to focus on and consult thoroughly. This implies that much of the expert investigation was pre-orientated. Was that done deliberately? What was the reason? Only time will tell.

The experts’ conclusions are based on a relatively small number of witnesses: fifteen witnesses were consulted. But what is certain is that ballistic experts, who worked on the case, admit their inability to determine, without any other help, the perimeter from which the missiles were launched for shooting down the plane of President Juvenal Habyarimana.

The expert report of French judges is even surprising to the point that Colonel Luc Marchal who led the Belgian UN contingent inKigali[at the time of the shooting], could not help pointing out this:

“It is not enough to have experts and materials at the forefront of technical knowledge; it is still necessary that the elements on which to feed expertise are reliable and 100% correct.”

But some “press people” do not want to give the case a rest. The story as revealed by the French newspaper Liberation has a title which says it all: “Rwanda: missiles that point to Paris.” We learn from this paper that the British journalist Linda Melvern, discovered in the archives of the UN, a list referring to the presence of Mistral missiles in the arsenal of the Rwandan Forces Army (FAR – French acronym).

The list that reveals the presence of these surface-to-air missiles of French origin was handed to the judges Marc Trevidic and Nathalie Poux. “The document, wrote the French newspaper, was part and parcel in the middle of another report.

Why is this so important? Because, since 1994, former Rwandan officers indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal forRwandahave continued to assert that none of their people could be involved in the shooting of the presidential plane, because they did not have missiles.

The French authorities, who have for long supported, trained and equipped the former Rwandan army, followed the same reasoning: no weapon, no possible crime. “So, what do these Mistral missile mean in the stocks of the Rwandan army?”

The problem is that the experts’ technical report in question must first be authenticated. Worse, the missiles that shot down the presidential plane were not identified as Mistral. The proof is that the current instruction of French judges dismissed the probability of the potential use of these missiles in the attack. Moreover, the traceability of the two missiles that shot down the jet has been already established.

Thanks to the cooperation of Russian judiciary, it is known that the two mobile SAM 16 missiles whose serial numbers were respectively 04-87-04814 and 04-87-04835 were part of a batch of 40 missiles 16 SA IGLA delivered to the Ugandan army in which officiated Paul Kagame [towards the end of the 1980s].

And as that has been as well established, the Rwandan army had no such missiles. And as pointed out by Theogene Rudasingwa, former influential member of the RPF,

“the fact that missiles were fired in the vicinity of the area Kanombe does not mean that Kagame did not commit the crime … And we still have time, (myself and other interested witnesses and new) to respond to assertions of the whole technical report and give credible testimony to Judge Marc Trevidic or any other international court, to demonstrate precisely that Kagame is the author of this terrorist crime.”

Some pertinent questions:

“If the shooting down of the presidential plane was the work of Hutu extremists as the Kigali regime and some incompetent press people, why do the Rwandan authorities persistently object to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) investigating the case? Why do they always systematically block investigations?”

It is worth recalling that the Spanish judiciary who investigated the crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Army, from 1990 to 2000, inRwanda and DRC, came to the conclusion that the shooting of the plane was the work of Paul Kagame.

As someone would say, “well tortuous are the paths to the truth.”

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