Rwanda President Paul Kagame cleared of charges


President of Rwanda Paul Kagame speaks during a press conference in the Ugandan capital, Kampala on December 12, 2011 a day after he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for inspiring the young generation in Africa to desire for change and better life.



The Rwandan government proudly announced that it has been vindicated.

It was cleared on Jan. 10 by a French investigation of charges that President Paul Kagame and the Rwandan Patriotic Front had shot down President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane in 1994. 

On April 6, 1994 the presidential jet carrying international dignitaries, leaders and then-President Juvénal Habyarimana was shot out of the air as it approached the Kigali airport.

The crash of Habyarimana's plane was the spark that turned a civil war into a genocide. In the following 100 days, about a million ethnic Tusis and sympathetic Hutus were slaughtered and the country's economy was destroyed.

More from GlobalPost: Rwanda Now

Since the genocide, the Rwandan Patriotic Front — the current ruling party — has maintained that it was Hutu extremists that shot down the plane, with the intention of blaming the Tutsi rebels, and sparking a meticulously planned extermination of the Tutsi minority. 

Critics charged the Rwandan Patriotic Front shot down the plane. In October 2011, Theogene Rudasingwa, a former presidential ally and high-ranking official told the BBC that he overheard President Paul Kagame, then a general, boasting that he ordered the attack on the plane.

On Oct 1, Rudasingwa, who now lives in exile and has been sentenced to 24 years in prison in absentia, after being accused of threatening state security posted the following on Facebook:

“The truth must now be told. Paul Kagame, then overall commander of the Rwandese Patriotic Army, the armed wing of the Rwandese Patriotic Front, was personally responsible for the shooting down of the plane. In July, 1994, Paul Kagame himself, with characteristic callousness and much glee, told me that he was responsible for shooting down the plane.”

This insider’s confession grabbed headlines in Rwanda and around the world, as the Rwandan government roundly rejected the accusation.

The RFP and Kagame have always maintained innocence. Now their assertions have been backed up by a French investigation overseen by Judges Marc Trévidic and Nathalie Poux. The report, released Jan. 10, says that the shots came from a “highly-fortified” military base near the airport. At that point in the war, RPF rebels did not have access to the area, according to The Guardian.

"Today's findings constitute vindication for Rwanda's long-held position on the circumstances surrounding events of April 1994", said Louise Mushikiwabo, Rwanda’s foreign minister in a statement released Tuesday. "With this scientific truth, Judges Trévidic and Poux have slammed shut the door on the seventeen-year campaign to deny the genocide or blame its victims.”

The statement does not mention another reason the Rwandan government has to be gleeful.

In 2006, Rwanda and France temporarily broke diplomatic relations after a French judge accused Kagame of ordering the hit on the plane. And now it is the French who are telling the world he is innocent.

More from GlobalPost: Rwanda Now: Country's bright future tainted by its tragic past