Rwandan Basketry 8

the japanese art of Kentsugi
Rwanda on the globe
Rwanda on the globe
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In 2010, two French Magistrates of the Parisian Tribunal de Grande Instance, Marc Trévidic et Nathalie Poux, charged with the investigation of the case opened by Judge Bruguière, suspended the arrest warrants for the nine Rwandan officials and instructed a panel of 6 French independent experts to carry out an in-depth technical investigation on the crash site, the Falcon 50 jet wreckage, and the areas of Kanombe and Masaka Hill in Kigali. The team included experts in missile technology and aviation, an air accident investigator, a geometrician specializing in topographic surveys, an explosives expert, and an acoustics engineer whose task was to analyze the sound waves produced by the missile launchers to better locate the shooting area. Their multidisciplinary report was ready on January 5, 2012. Here it is.

Rapport d'Expertise
The official technical report entitled Rapport d’Expertise sur la destruction en vol du Falcon 50 Kigali (Rwanda) was drawn up by a panel of independent experts appointed and charged by the investigating magistrates of the Tribunal de Grande Instance de PARIS. It was published in 2012, and signed by the following experts:
  • Claudine OOSTERLINCK, an aviation expert, Falcon 2000 instructor, airline chief pilot, and an expert in Transport Law and Air Safety at the Caen Court of Appeal;
  • Daniel VAN SCHENDEL, an expert in explosives and explosions, and a legal expert at the Toulouse Court of Appeal;
  • Jean HUON, one of the French top experts in weapons, ammunition, and ballistics, author of over 1 500 articles and 70 technical works on this military topic; a legal expert at the Versailles Court of Appeal, approved by the Court of Cassation.
  • Jean-SOMPAYRAC, a surveyor-expert, specializing in planimetric and topographic surveys.
  • Olivier CHAVANIS, an engineer and an expert in aeronautical armaments (anti-aircraft weapons and aviation weapons) and on-board pyrotechnics; member of the National Company of Arms and Ammunition Experts near the Paris Courts of Appeal;
  • Jean-Pascal SERRE, an acoustics engineer.
This report (only in French) can be downloaded here, on the France – Génocide – Tutsi website.

Here there are the most remarkable results of the French investigation.

  • Shooting down the plane

Two missiles were fired against the plane with a lag time of 2-3 seconds. The first one missed the target and continued its race on the trajectory for approximately 15 seconds until self-destruction. The second missile hit the plane on the underside of the left wing, near the fuselage. The detonation of 400 g mass of octogen-based explosive contained in the missile head ignited the kerosene in the left-wing fuel tank. The Falcon 50 was hit when approaching the landing strip, flying at 222 km/h, at an altitude of 1,646 m (± 40 m). Immediately after being hit, it became a ball of fire in the night sky. The horizontal distance traveled by aircraft between the missile impact and the crash on the ground is approx. 400 m. The plane fell in 7 seconds and struck the ground still on fire with a speed of 68 m/s and at an angle of about 31.3 degrees. Its debris was scattered inside and outside the boundary wall of the presidential residence, over a length of 145 m and a width of 20 m approximately. The low dispersion and the condition of the debris make the experts exclude the complete disintegration of the aircraft in flight; however, its integrity was greatly altered. The three jet engines were not deformed by the effects of the explosion, and the damages they showed were due to the brutal impact on the ground only. The empennage, the rear fuselage section, and the tail cone were not deformed by the explosion as well.

  • The missiles

The experts analyzed 53 anti-aircraft weapons systems from several points of view, including their availability in Rwanda at the time. The presidential plane was shot down by two MANPADS, most likely Soviet-made Igla1 SA-16 shoulder missiles. It is less likely that the Soviet Igla SA-18 or the American Stinger 92A were used, while the employment of other types of missiles or weapons is excluded based on different factual considerations.

[PLEASE, NOTE: MANPADS are man-portable air-defense systems. The 9K310 Igla-1, aka SA-16 Gimlet, are small surface-to-air missiles. They are typically infrared homing weapons, which use the infrared light emission from a target to track and follow it. They are often called “heat-seekers” since infrared is radiated strongly by hot bodies and these anti-aircraft missiles use infra-red seekers to home in on the hot exhaust pipes of jet engines. They are designed to be kept on a soldier’s shoulder and can be fired at a low-flying aircraft from almost any direction, excluding the front. They have a high success rate but need to be used only by specifically trained and skilled operators].

The infrared radiation emitted by the three jet engines could be detected by the ‘heat-seeker’ S-16 missile whether the latter is positioned at 45, 90, 135, or 180 degrees up to a distance of max. 3000 m (considering the weather conditions of that moment). By firing from the front, at 0 degrees, the thermal radiation of the reactors is largely masked, therefore this shooting angle can be excluded and some limits can be safely established as to the possible shooting areas. Given the above-mentioned possible angles, the shooters had only a lapse of time of 1m 30s to 2m 30s to perform all the shooting maneuvers.

  • The shooting area

«The study of firing positions is strictly based on:

– the scientific aspects of infrared radiation: emission of the source and detection by the missile

– acoustic studies

– the operational performance of the missile: firing and ballistics

– field surveys

The perceptions of the events by the witnesses will be analyzed afterward to establish whether or not they are likely to support some of our technical results» (Expertise). To prevent any possible controversy, the French experts declared to use the verified testimonies only to confirm or discuss their scientific and technical conclusions. On this basis, they investigated six possible firing positions for attackers.

The first relevant finding is that no zone of Masaka Hill could have been the shooting position for many different irrefutable reasons, including the following two:

1. The missile fired from Masaka Hill would have been guided by its infra-red sensors to an engine and would have impacted most probably the left one, less probably the central. The analysis of the debris, however, leaves no doubt: the three engines were spared by the effects of the missile explosion. Moreover, since the missile fired from Masaka Hill would not have impacted the underside of the left wing and would not have caused any damage to the left-wing fuel tank, the kerosene would not have exploded, forming a fireball. The latter, however, was seen in the sky by many witnesses and left many traces of calcination on the left wing debris.

Falcon 50
A Dassault Falcon 50 airplane

2. That night, the Belgian army medical lieutenant colonel Massimo Pasuch, billeted in the Kanombe military camp thanks to the technical military cooperation between Belgium and Rwanda, was at home, located approx. 300 m from the presidential residence, with his wife Brigitte Delneuville, their guests Denise Van Deenen and Ghislain Daubresse. They all gave interesting testimonies. Lieutenant colonel Massimo Pasuch could distinctly hear the characteristic missile “whoosh”, their orange plume, the fireball, and the plane on fire crashing into the nearby ground. If the missile were fired from different positions within the area of Masaka Hill, like ‘La Ferme’, the sounds of the missiles’ firing could not have been distinctly heard, due to the distance of these positions from the reference tell-tale <more than 2 km>. Moreover, the sound of these shots could have been heard by any witness in the Pasuch’s house from 0.45s to 1.50s after the visual perception of the explosion of the aircraft <the variation depends on the specific position on the Masaka Hill> and not before, as per the firing position inside the Kanombe camp (see Expertise, C23).

After considering the system of objective and consistent data emerging from cross-multidisciplinary studies, the possible shooting positions can only be located within the perimeter of the Kanombe military camp, near the current cemetery, with an approximation of ± 100 m. Here, the two shooters, placed at a distance ranging from a few meters to about 20 m, aided probably by some assistants, fired the missiles that shot down the presidential plane.

Here’s the best and most accurate map I’ve found. It was sketched by Jos van Oijen, a Dutch independent researcher and author of an interesting article, Michela Wrong’s retelling of the untold story of Rwanda, published In September 2021, on different websites on the Internet.

Jos van Oijen map

The French Rapport d’Expertise did not propose any historical reconstruction and avoided any political analysis: its conclusions were technical, correctly proven, and scientifically sound. Its findings give solid support to the technical conclusions of the Mutsinzi Report.

In the video below, you can follow an interview made in 2018 with Guillaume Ancel on the Habyarimana assassination and the technical findings of the 2012 Rapport d’Expertise. Guillaume Ancel was a former French Lieutenant Colonel. In the 1990s was assigned to the 68th African Artillery Regiment (68°RAA) at the La Valbonne camp, in France. He was trained in airstrike guidance as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) and head of the Tactical Air Control Party (TACP). He was deployed in Rwanda in June 1994 with Opération Turquoise as TACP to carry out close guidance of airstrikes. He’s an expert who well knows Rwanda and the technical details linked to the surface-to-air missiles that shot down the Habyarimana’s Falcon 50. Many times he refers to the Rapport d’Expertise and makes relevant comments.

The interview with former Lieutenant Colonel Guillaume Ancel is in French, without English subtitles; therefore, here’s my translation.
«I’m an expert in MANPADS, man-portable air-defense systems, and shoulder surface-to-air missiles. I entered the French Army and that was my specialty. I can say I’ve tested, employed in operations, and destroyed in operations several systems that used these special missiles. Let me, however, make it clear that I have no direct information on the assassination of President Habyarimana. I was not in Rwanda <at that time> and my military unit was never involved in the case. What I’m going to say is based on my expertise and my reading of the Rapport d’Expertise commissioned by the French Justice.
Only in 2012 a complete report, drafted by the best experts on the subject, came out. This report impressed me for its relevance, but what surprised me the most is that it had no operational conclusions whatever: it remained on a purely technical aspect. (…)
In particular, with regard to the missiles used, they were probably SAM <surface-to-air-missiles> SA-16 <Soviet Igla-1 system>. At that time, they were on sale everywhere in the world. After the end of the Warsaw bloc, you could buy a full set of missiles for a hundred thousand dollars. Therefore, just saying they were SAM 16 doesn’t give any indication of their origin and provenance. In France, at the time, we had some of them, which I could test in 1991 to make a comparison with French Mistral missiles <Mistral are French-built infrared homing MANPADS>.
So we know that the missiles were SAM-16. What is most striking was their shooting: they were fired by two perfectly synchronized shooters on a target flying at night. It had to be very difficult to estimate the distance of the aircraft; moreover, there was a short firing window of 2 to 3 minutes, no more. The shooters were perfectly informed and completely protected. Nobody saw them and they left nothing on the site. They had to make some recces, probably several <by day, not by night>. They were professionals. They fired near the Kanombe training camp of the Rwandan para-commando battalion. Do you still doubt about the ‘side’ of the shooters?
When you fire at night, the plume of a missile like the SAM-16 is more than 5 m long, and it’s impossible not to see it within a radius of 2 km. The shooters were not found <by the Kanombe military personnel> simply because the shooters and military personnel were from the same side. Why all the controversy about the shooters? No way! They fired from the Kanombe camp, the side of Hutu extremists. (…)
It seems very clear to me today who was behind the shooting. However, we must make no mistake: it is not because there was this shooting against President Habyarimana that there was a genocide; <the attack> was a simple trigger. Everything was already organized, structured, planned, and tested. And what is even more worrying is that the French observed this preparation and these plans. They permanently had advisers at the highest level of the government, and I am sure that my comrades at the time reported these facts. (…). However, all those who dared to say that we could not continue because our military assistance was extremely dangerous and endangered the image of France were systematically sanctioned and dismissed. (…). Imho and from a purely technical point of view, the shooters were Hutu extremists. It’s a plain fact.
If we had been able to recover the black box immediately <after the crash>, we could have reconstructed the trajectory of both plane and missiles. <We couldn’t> and we had to wait until 2012 for the report, a work made by experts during some years. (…) What about the black box? I think the French made it disappear because they received the order immediately after the attack; a French general I know was there <on the crash site> and probably took the black box. I’m not saying and I don’t want to say that France is behind the attack. These facts only prove that we have done everything to cover our tracks. What is very disturbing is that in the weeks that followed <the assassination>, the direction of French military intelligence published a photo with two SAM-16 missiles whose numbers of identification correspond to stocks coming from an ally of the RPF. What nonsense! What a ridiculous masquerade! Had we been able to carry out a search in the area where the missiles were fired, we could probably have found their launchers. These pieces were made practically one by one and are therefore perfectly identifiable: they could have helped us to identify the two missiles as well. (…) In any case – I wanna say it one more time – SAM SA-16 were available almost everywhere to those who could pay their price. On the other hand, those missiles had to be in perfect working order, and the shooters professional soldiers.
There’s another issue I’ve always found quite surprising, an issue related to the firing of missiles against President Habyarimana’s plane. In those years, in the first half of the 1990s, everyone exercised strict control over man portable missiles, especially the French. Those missiles were and are weapons for attacks. I can’t understand how this attack, in particular, could have been prepared – because it had to be planned and prepared, preceded by specific recces to define the area where the missiles were going to be fired. I can’t understand, I was saying, how this attack could have been prepared while escaping the French secret services. I think they are too professional and top-level to pass these preparations unnoticed: they must have noticed all of them and warned the French government. Two possible hypotheses, then: either this alert drowned in an incessant flood of many alerts (..) and was discarded, or France had an interest in seeing President Habyarimana disappear because his control <over the country> had begun to loosen. The latter is a dramatic hypothesis and only the opening of the archives would allow us to know what happened. I simply point out a fact – and I am not a conspiracy theorist: the day after President Habyarimana’s assassination, President Mitterrand’s Africa adviser, François Durand de Grossouvre, committed suicide at the Elysée. Well, in my world there is no coincidence».

Let me say here that I fully agree with Ancel on a key point: the multidisciplinary technical analyses conducted by two different teams of experts (French and British), in different periods (2007-2009 and 2010-2012), with multiple on-site surveys, offer a series of incontrovertible pieces of evidence. Given these findings and the location of the roadblocks in the Kanombe area of Kigali on April 6, 1994, it’s obvious that only RAF soldiers or mercenaries connected to the RAF could carry out the necessary recces by day and the final attack by night.

What Guillaume Ancel says in the interview can be easily verified, at least in part. In the video below, you can observe the training of some Russian soldiers with SAM SA-16 missiles, similar to those used against Habyarimana’s plane. The noise of the shooting is quite intense and had to be well heard in the Kanombe area of Kigali, during a moment of stillness and silence (there was no air traffic when Habyarimana’s Falcon was hit). The video, moreover, clearly shows the intensity and visibility of the missile plume by the day and at dusk. You can imagine how it could be eye-catching in the complete darkness of a poorly lit city like Kigali at the time.

From 1975 to 2019, over 60 civilian aircraft have been hit by surface-to-air missile platforms known as man-portable air-defense systems (MANPADS), resulting in the deaths of over 1,000 civilians. Terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, and Lebanese Hezbollah are deemed to possess MANPADS, presenting an ongoing concern for civilian air travel in the modern political climate.

Do you think that a group of RPF specialists could have carried out a recce mission in daylight in the most patrolled, controlled, and militarized strategic area of the entire city? Do you think they could have easily entered a tightly controlled military base with an estimated 4,000 troops, a training and billeting area for three elite units, namely Presidential Guard, the Para-Commando battalion, which included the Commandos de Recherche et d’Action en Profondeur (CRAP), and the Anti-Aircraft battalion (LAA)?

Yet, even recently some scholars and journalists (Helen C. Epstein, Judi Rever, Laurie Garret, Michela Wrong, to name only a few) continue to support the responsibility of the RPF whose soldiers allegedly fired from someplace in Masaka Hill. Some of these accusations come from authors extremely critical of RPF’s unaddressed crimes and the repressive regime of Paul Kagame after the Genocide. I think we must neatly separate the evidence related to Habyarimana’s assassination from any criticism of Kagame. There’s no evidence to prove that the Rwandan Patriotic Front killed the President but there are many pieces of evidence to prove the responsibility of the hardliners’ military lobby. Supporting this reasonable position does not entail any uncritical acceptance of the Rwandan official portrait of Kagame as an immaculate savior and patron saint of Rwanda.

There is no mystery on the responsibility of Habyarimana’s assassination but there are still many unanswered questions on the role of Agathe Kanziga, Habyarimana’s wife, and on the role of the Mitterrand government and the French secret services, as Guillaume Ancel said in his interview.

The French secret services alerted the Congolese President and dictator Mobutu Sese Seko of imminent danger and put on the lookout for the French crew of the Falcon 50. Did they witness unusual recces in the Kanombe area? Did they know anything about the attack? Did they alert Habyarimana as they did with Mobutu? And if they did it, why Habyarimana decided to give a lift to the Burundian President and come home that night facing a risk of multiple deaths?

In the Kanombe military camp, there were many Belgian and French officers linked to a project of technical military assistance cooperation that had nothing to do with UNAMIR. As I wrote, the most senior French officer was Commandant (currently Général) Grégoire de Saint-Quentin, who was an adviser to Major Aloys Ntabakuze, head of the para-commando battalion at Kanombe. Saint-Quentin and two sub-officers went to the crash site at 8.45 pm, only 15 minutes after the attack, as declared in Record No. 543/DEF/EMA/ESG by the French Ministry of Defence dated 7 July 1998. He came back to the site a second time, at 8.00  am on April 7. Did he find the black box? Did he see who took the black box that has never been found since then?

[The story of the black box is complicated. In 1995, Dassault Falcon Service, the French manufacturer of the Presidential Falcon 50 and the company responsible for the maintenance of Habyarimana’s Falcon 50, declared no black box was installed on the plane. On June 19, 2001, the company made a complete turnaround on its position, admitting in an information note provided to the French courts that “the presidential jet was indeed equipped with a Cockpit Voice Recorder». According to The Mutsinzi Report, many witnesses saw a French official collecting the black box early in the morning, on April 7. True or not, there was a black box and the French or Rwandan military member/s who were allowed to enter the crash site found it, took it, and hid it forever].

Guillaume Ancel refers to the mysterious death of Mitterrand’s Africa adviser, François Durand de Grossouvre, who, according to the official version, committed suicide at the Elysée on April 7, shortly before 8 pm. Within a few hours, his archives at home and the Elysée disappeared (de Grossouvre had been Mitterrand’s shadow man for many years and knew many unspeakable secrets). The investigation was hasty and the autopsy was full of inconsistencies (de Grossouvre was right-handed but suffered a hemorrhagic dislocation of his left shoulder immediately before dying). His family, some journalists, and some experts, including François Graner, member of the Survie NGO, co-author of the essay L’État français et le génocide des Tutsis, began to suspect he had been killed and suggested a likely African lead. De Grossouvre had been an international councilor of Dassault Aviation in 1985-1986, Africa adviser of the French President, often in opposition to Jean-Christophe ‘papamadit’ Mitterrand, and supervisor of agent Paul Barril. Moreover, he knew Habyarimana. Does his death on April 7 have anything to do with the shooting down of Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, or is it just a coincidence?



There are other irrefutable pieces of evidence indicating who killed Habyarimana.

Let’s see a special issue of Kangura, the no. 53, published in December 1993. Here’s the cover.

Kangura 53

The photo of President Habyarimana dominates the cover (the first sign of maximum relevance) and his story is screamed on top (the second sign of maximum relevance): HABYARIMANA AZAPFA MURI WERURWE 1994, whose English translation is “Habyarimana will die in March 1994”.

The other screaming headlines on the cover are the following (top to bottom):

INYENZI NZIZA NABI TUZAZISUBIZA AHO ZIVUYE / “We will send the Inyenzi back to where they came from”

PROCURER NSANZUWRA FRANÇOIS ARASUBIYE BAHU! / “Prosecutor François Nsanzuwra is back!”

UKURI KOSE KU BISHE NDADAYE / “The whole truth about the killers of Ndadaye”.

[All translations are mine, as always]

“Habyarimana will die in March 1994”. What does it mean?  The answer is in an article signed by Hassan Ngeze, the editor-in-chief of the magazine, on page 3 (the third sign of maximum relevance). The title: “Habyarimana will die in March 1994”.

Habyarimana mourra en Mars Kangura 53

The article reads: “Last month we obtained irrefutable pieces of evidence demonstrating how Habyarimana is about to be assassinated. He will not be murdered by a Tutsi but by a Hutu bribed by some Tutsi!”. Ngeze writes that Habyarimana will be assassinated as soon as both the Transitional Government under the prime minister Faustin Twagiramungu and the Parliament will be set up, two institutions whose implementation is established by the Arusha Accords. “President Habyarimana will be killed in the following way: 1. he will be shot during a Mass; 2. he will be shot during an important meeting with some leaders of the time. He will be killed by one of the RAF demobilized soldiers. This mobilization is expected and planned by the Arusha Accords, and this  person will be a Hutu bribed by the Inyenzi. The motive attributed to this abominable act will be linked to the fact that the killer will be one of those ill-rewarded, badly treated soldiers who nevertheless had fought and defended our country <during the war>. (…). No one’s going to complain or protest because our intelligence services and the Gendarmerie will be largely in the hand of the Inyenzi. Our soldiers won’t get too much angry at the news <of Habyarimana’s assasination>. Many of them, indeed, will approve and say that he is the cause of his death because of the undue favors and the trust he has been granting to the Inyenzi”.

Even if it starts with the tone of a lead giving a piece of breaking news to its readers, the article turns out to tell a completely different story. It does not give a piece of news, and there’s no scoop. The article preconizes the murder of Habyarimana in the scenario planned by the Arusha Accords. The meaning of what Ngeze writes is simple: the President will be killed if he starts implementing the Accords, kicking off not only the political institutions provided for by the Second Protocol but also the merging of the two armies and the consequent demobilization of 50% of the RAF, as per Fourth Protocol.

Habyarimana will be killed if… that’s simple. There’s no news here, no revelation from an unknown whistleblower, just a warning to Habyarimana, a veiled death threat in the arrogant style of the Serubuga-Bagosora-Rwagafilita trio.

If you’re not convinced about this reading, have a look at the cartoon inside the article: it will sweep away all your doubts.

Habyarimana and Kagame

President Habyarimana is walking on a road holding Paul Kagame on his shoulders; Kagame rides him holding on to his ears. Kagame says in Swahili, the language spoken in Uganda: “Move forward to Kigali!”. Habyarimana says in Kinyarwanda: “I did my best to make you Tutsis feel good”. Then Kagame asks him, this time in Kinyarwanda: “Who gave you this mission?!!”.

What does this cartoon suggest? That Habyarimana sold Rwanda to the Tutsis, that he’s a traitor to his people, his country, and the glorious 1959 Social Revolution. And tell me, what do you think a traitor deserves?

This kind of “news” about the imminent assassination of Habyarimana multiplied during January 1994, relaunched by the different mass media owned by the hardliners, including RTLM, together with the “news” of an imminent attack by the RPF (another typical example of that manipulation tactic named ‘projection’ or ‘accusation in a mirror’ which we talked about in RWANDA BASKETRY 4). Many testimonies collected in the Mutsinzi Report converge consistently on this point. Colonel Habimana Pierre Claver, at the time major of the RAF, said: «Rumours on the probable assassination of President Habyarimana were circulating both in the army and among politicians, but I was not able to find out the origin and substance of this intelligence. What is clear is that it was being talked about» (Source: The Mutsinzi Report). The rumor was taken seriously by the President Security staff, who adopted special protection measures. Between February and March, the hearsay of the probable assassination of Habyarimana was so widespread in Kigali that it ceased to be a simple rumor to become a topic of discussion among the Belgian military, Western diplomats, and agents of many foreign secret services. The civilian head of UNAMIR, Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh knew it and alerted Habyarimana when the two met at the presidential residence on Lake Kivu, in Gisenyi, during the Easter weekend; the President said he was already familiar with those rumors (source: Linda Melvern). The wife of the Falcon 50 captain, Jacky Héraud, revealed that the French crew was aware of intelligence regarding the assassination of the President during the last weeks before the attack. When questioned by French author Sébastien Spitzer, Mrs Héraud revealed that her husband had spoken about “threats hanging over the president” from “certain Hutu extremists who oppose any form of concession (…) of part of the power to men from the RPF” (Sébastien Spitzer, Contre-enquête sur le juge Bruguière. Raisons d’Etat. Justice ou politique?, Paris, Privé, 2007).

Valérie Bemeriki, a cousin of Bagosora and one of the main journalists and presenters on RTLM, said on her radio broadcast on April 3, three days before the attack: «Je vous parlais tout à l’heure des manœuvres du FPR pour diviser nos forces armées en vue de la prise du pouvoir. En effet, les partis favorables au FPR, y compris le MDR de Twagiramungu, auraient convoqué quelques officiers originaires d’une même région du sud du pays chez le Prime Ministre (…) dans la nuit du 1er au 2 avril 1994 pour qu’ils cherchent les voies et moyens de renverse Son Excellence le Président de la République et, en cas d’échec de ce plan, de l’assassiner. Pour de raisons de sécurité, nous ne pouvons pas vous citer les noms de ces officiers, mas nous les connaissons. (…)» (Transcription RTLM 0194 made on June 12, 2000. It can be downloaded here, on the France – Génocide – Tutsi website). My translation: “I’ve been already talking to you about the RPF’s maneuvers to divide our armed forces in order to seize power. Indeed, the pro-RPF parties, including the MDR of Twagiramungu, reportedly summoned some officers from the same southern region at a meeting with the Prime Minister (…) during the night between 1 to 2 April, 1994 to define the ways and the means to overthrow His Excellency the President of the Republic and, in case of planning failure, to kill him. For security reasons, we cannot give you the names of these officers, but we know them”.

Valérie Bemeriki
Valérie Bemeriki. Photo by Igihe TV.
She was the only female animatrice of RTLM, well-known and appreciated for her conversational register and aggressive style of communication, and a tireless promoter of the Genocide of the Tutsis. She was convicted of and pleaded guilty to planning genocide, inciting violence, and complicity in several murders and sentenced to life imprisonment by a Gacaca court in Rwanda, in 2009. The Gacaca courts (please, pronounce /gatchatcha/) were a system of community justice.

The Mutsinzi Report reads: «To put it clearly, the announcement of the death of President Habyarimana in a context of power seizing and large-scale massacres constituted intelligence spread throughout Rwandan extremist political and military circles, expressed publicly, and known by sources independent of the government, particularly the Belgian and French embassies and military cooperation services».

What we saw was a threatening, intimidating campaign against Habyarimana, launched and spread by a group of hardliners through some of their private mass media (radio and press). It was a cynical and brutal campaign orchestrated by that powerful radicalized lobby within the RAF, the Presidential Guard, and the Gendarmerie we’ve called the ‘Military Fronde’, active against the President since 1993. We can only imagine how he had been feeling in the last months of his life. How could Guichaoua write: «Eminent personalities, usually close to the decision-makers, had not received any information or anticipated the event»? In March and early April, many people in Kigali discussed the likelihood of the rumors that Habyarimana was to be the victim of a coup disguised as a terrorist attack by the RPF in cahoots with Belgian traitors.

The RPF had no reason to plan Habyarimana’s assassination: Kagame had no interest in breaking the cease-fire, resuming the open conflict, and killing Habyarimana. He was the recognized winner of the Arusha Accords whose implementation would have given him good control of the military – the beating heart of Rwanda – and provide him with a good stepping stone to gain – by hook or by crook – the political control of the country. What were his interest and his gain in resuming the war? On this crucial point, I’m not alone. Gérard Prunier, an expert I admire the most for his unconventional life and intelligence, wrote in his essay The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide, published by the Columbia University Press in 1996: «It was not in the political interest of the RPF to kill President Habyarimana. It had obtained a good political settlement from the Arusha Agreements and could not hope for anything better. The President was already a political corpse anyway and the problem for the RPF was not going to be with him, but rather with the ‘Power’ groups in the former opposition parties. Killing him meant renewed civil war, the possibility of direct French military intervention if the plot was uncovered, and a leap into the unknown».

Moreover, Roméo Dallaire writes in his memoirs: «At this time <January 1994> I was beginning to be pressured by Paul Kagame over the snail’s pace of the peace process. He told me he was running out of money to feed and fuel his force. As a result, his soldiers were making dangerous incursions into the demilitarized zone, looking for food and water. If he was already facing serious shortfalls, how were his troops going to survive until the time demobilization began, three months after the BBTG was sworn in?» (R. Dallaire, Shake Hands With The Devil, cit.). What Paul Kagame said to Dallaire sounds plausible. Even if the RPF probably received money and weapons from both declared and hidden sources, it certainly couldn’t boast the economic power and the financial resources of a state. The effort sustained during four years of war had certainly left him slightly short of breath, and the easiest way to catch that breath didn’t pass through Habyarimana’s assassination. However, as a military intelligence expert, he was well aware of the Rwandan situation, the chaos of opposing forces, and the ‘Military Fronde’. At the end of the winter, he began to prepare his troops.



A historical reconstruction of the attack based on objective and verifiable data allows us to distance ourselves from a series of clichés and labels that continue to be stuck to Habyarimana’s assassination as easy captivating payoffs.

The old reading of President Habyarimana’s assassination as the ’cause’ of the Genocide, supported by the hardliners and the French government in 1994, and by Judge Bruguière later on, is quite discredited. Fortunately, I’d say: it’s a biased, far-fetched, ideological interpretation, not only supporting the denial of any genocidal planning but also supporting the denial of the Genocide tout court, regarded as a massive retaliatory killing campaign.

President Habyarimana’s assassination cannot be the ’cause’ of the Genocide for two irrefutable reasons:

  1. The Genocide of the Tutsis started in the fall of 1990
  2. President Habyarimana himself was one of the planners of the Genocide

Since defining the attack as the ’cause’ of the Genocide is beyond question, many journalists, historians, and popular sources use a parade of easy labels that seem less compromising and easy to use and understand: the shooting down the Presidential Falcon 50 has been defined the ‘trigger’ (something that initiates a process or course of action or that causes something to start), the ‘catalyst’ (something that precipitates an event, provokes or speeds significant change), the ‘spark’ (a first small event or problem that causes a much worse situation to develop), the ‘pretext’ (a reason given in justification of a course of action that is not the real reason) of the Genocide.

All of them are ready-to-use labels that save the brain a bit of effort, but are misleading and historically unsound as 1. they do not recognize the mass killing of Tutsi systematically carried out from 1990 to 1993 as a Genocide, as they really were (we’ve talked about that in RWANDAN BASKETRY 4); 2. they do miss the main point: Habyarimana’s assassination was essentially a military coup d’état, orchestrated by that powerful radicalized clique within the RAF, the Presidential Guard and the Gendarmerie we’ve called the ‘Military Fonde’, and whose leaders were Serubuga, Bagosora, and Rwagafilita.

Do you remember the military coup carried out on July 5, 1973?

Major General Juvénal Habyarimana led a group of officers, “les Camarades du 5 juillet 1973” (which included Serubuga), in the overthrow of President Kayibanda. The 1973 coup was defined by diplomatic sources in Kigali as a bloodless one, but it wasn’t, to tell the truth: in the coup aftermath, 56 members of the Kayibanda’s government, army officers, and state functionaries, including President Kaybanda and his wife, were imprisoned; some were executed by gunfire and some other starved to death. As army General Juvenal Habyarimana seized power from Rwanda’s first elected president, Grégoire Kayibanda, in 1973, so did a group of former top-ranking officials, which we can call ‘les camarades du 6 Avril 1994’: they seized power from General Habyarimana.

That of 1994 wasn’t an easy coup as there were heterogeneous political stances and many personal and clannish tensions within the military. Habyarimana did not control the armed forces, but neither did the hardliners nor did the criminal trio – Bagosora, Serubuga, and Rwagafilita – who constituted a powerful but small group within the field of those extremists who recognized themselves under the heterogeneous umbrella of the Hutu Pawa.

Bagosora wasn’t a general: he was just an ambitious, retired colonel with an important position at the Ministry of Defense and relevant family ties. He was more of an operational executioner than a charismatic general, more of a coordinator and an organizer than a master tactician, and more of a torturer than an experienced and inspiring military leader. He was an officer whose aspirations and brutality were known, quite feared and decidedly unpopular. We know that Bagosora wanted to chair the military meeting held on the night of April 6. «One of the colonels suggested that it would be more appropriate for Major-General Augustin Ndindiliyimana, chief of staff of the National Gendarmerie, to chair the meeting, but he did not want to. “We could not understand it”, one of the officers recalled. “How could someone with the rank of general refuse and leave the way open to someone like Bagosora?”» (Linda Melvern, Conspiracy to Murder, cit.).

In the Crisis Committee meeting at 7 p.m on April 7, Bagosora became furious and had a bad outburst of anger when he was refused to chair the meeting and become the Committee president, and was stopped from passing over many fully operational and higher-ranking officers. In the next video, you will see Bagosora changing his tune all of a sudden to threaten a slightly insistent journalist with death.

Albeit very short, this French video can give you an idea of the type of man Théoneste Bagosora was. It’s a part of “La marche du siècle – Rwanda: autopsie d’un génocide”, broadcast on France 2, on September 21, 1994, and directed by Philippe Lallemant. It shows Théoneste Bagosora in Goma (former Zaire), some weeks after the Genocide. The French journalist asks him about the death squads in Rwanda, and Bagosora answers that these squads have never existed in the country and are a mere fabrication made by the RPF which, unlike Rwanda, had them. Then the journalist asks him if he had ever taken part in secret meetings <with genocidal intents>; Bagosora answers that many journalists are biased and prejudiced. Faced with the objection of the journalist, who emphasizes the existence of some witnesses, Bagosora denies everything. Then he is asked if he’s ready to testify and be judged by an International Court in the future; he says: “Yes, sure, but not by the RPF. Even immediately, but an international Court must prove that I have killed”. Put in a tight spot by the journalist, Bagosora then changes his register: «Did you get paid, too? That’s enough. One day you will die. Do you dare to taunt me up to this point?». His final words («Merci») show his willingness to end the interview.

Bagosora was definitely involved in the coup d’état, but probably he was not ‘the brain’ behind it: he was an excellent executor and executioner, advised or directed by Serubuga, Rwagafilita, and probably a few intellectuals or politicians (Mathieu Ngirumpatse?), certainly not by the whole leadership of MRND and CDR, whose members, like many militaries, experienced hours of confusion and uncertainty after Habyarimana’s assassination.

The hypothesis supported by some scholars and quite plausible is that in the shooting down the presidential plane, the criminal trio could count on the support of French soldiers or mercenaries. (It is also known that Serubuga was in close contact with Paul Barril, who in those years worked in Rwanda as a mercenary and a mercenary broker).

The coup is definitely a gamble for the military triad. During the meetings on April 6 and 7, Bagosora was hindered and distressed by senior and more respected officers and was forced to make a series of diplomatic retreats to prevent the coup from turning into an unsuccessful putsch.

Probably, the creation of civilian self-defense groups and control over the training and armament of paramilitary militias were a necessity for the triad (Bagosora has been working on it since February 1993) in view of their objectives: those were ‘weapons’ over which the triad could exercise that direct control it had only over a part of the armed forces.

Which part?

The ‘triad’ had good control of the Presidential Guard and the elite units billeted in the Kanombe and Kigali Camps. According to Alison Des Forges among the senior officers closest to Bagosora there were Major Protais Mpiranya, Commander of the Presidential Guard Battalion, Major Aloys Ntabakuze, Commander of the Para-Commando Battalion, Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, Commander of the Commandos de Recherche et d’Action en Profondeur (CRAP), and his subordinate Innocent Sagahutu, Commander of the CRAP’s A company. The Kanombe military camp was the major military stronghold of the hardliners and Hutu extremisms; many officers, like Major Aloys Ntabakuze, were members of a northern clique, known as Abakigas, the natives of Kiga, members also of the Akazu. Colonel Anatole Nsengiyumva, commander of the Gisenyi operational sector and in charge of the Gisenyi military base, was also a good loyalist to Colonel Bagosora.

The Presidential Guard and all of these units became fully operational a few minutes after the attack in Kigali, and a few hours in Gisenyi, another clear indicator of the long-anticipated plan behind Habyarimana’s assassination, a plan, however, that had to be constantly adapted to circumstances (two examples: the goal of a military junta had to be abandoned soon, and Bagosora had to grin and bear it on the appointment of Gatsinzi as Chief of Staff).

In the days immediately following the coup, there was no indiscriminate massacre of moderate or opposition politicians. On the contrary, in a very short time and with surgical precision, the putschists eliminated the political exponents who could have assumed the leadership of the country under a transitional civilian government, those who would have constituted the pillars of the BBTG, and even the jurists who could have invalidated any military authority. As we saw, the leadership of the Social Democratic Party, the only party that could not have been maneuvered because lacking a Hutu Pawa wing, was literally wiped out. In a span of just 48-72 hours, the ‘triad’ removed all barriers to the seizure of power by using the Presidential Guard, the elite units, and the death squads (Serubuga pulled the strings, among others, of the Réseau Zéro) and the paramilitary militias. The ICTR against Bagosora clearly stated that, in the Chamber’s view, «the killing of the opposition political officials consisted of an organized military operation»; they were not riots nor warm-blooded revenge killings. «Only later would it be established that all that day there had been requests to Bagosora and to Ndindiliyimana from army officers and from the RPF to control the military, and most notably the Presidential Guard, who were murdering civilians. These requests were ignored and Bagosora, according to his ICTR indictment, ordered Ntabakuze, the commander of the para-commando unit, Major François-Xavier Nzuwonemeye, the commander of the reconnaissance battalion, and Lt.-Col. Leonard Nkundiye, former commander of the Presidential Guard, to proceed with massacres» (L. Melvern, Conspiracy to Murder, cit).

As for the slaughter of the Belgian peacekeepers, crippling UNAMIR to the point of allocating it to an almost certain withdrawal was an equally important objective, already defined at the beginning of 1994. It opened, or better to say, it threw wide the doors to the war or, which is the same, to the final extermination of the Tutsi. We already saw that winning the war and carrying out an ‘insecticidal’ operation against all cockroaches were the two sides of a coin. Not by chance, in a handful of days after the shooting down the Presidential plane, the human rights community was literally decimated.


Alyx Becerra




Did you inherited from your aunt a tribal mask, a stool, a vase, a rug, an ethnic item that you have the faintest idea what it is?

Did you find in a trunk an ethnic mysterious item you don’t even know how to describe?

Would you like to know if it’s worth something or is a worthless souvenir?

Would you like to know what it is exactly and if / how / where you might sell it?