A reopened French investigation into what set off the 1994 Rwandan genocide has exonerated incumbent Rwandan President Paul Kagame and his Tutsi allies after Paris had initially accused him of triggering the massacre of 800,000 people in a little over three months, Reuters reported.A team of French investigators re-examined eyewitness testimonies to work out where the two missiles that brought down Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane were fired from, in order to determine who was responsible. Both the Hutus and Tutsis had bases near the airport.
The findings concluded the shots could not have come from Kagame’s supporters’ military base, while at the same time not pointing the finger at the Hutus, although the current Tutsi government continues to believe that extremist Hutus were behind the assassination.
“Today’s findings constitute vindication for Rwanda’s long-held position on the circumstances surrounding events of April 1994,” Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement.
Diplomatic relations between Rwanda and France soured in 2006 when a French judge said Kagame, the rebel leader at the time of the killings, had orchestrated the assassination of the Hutu President to trigger the bloodshed and gain legitimacy for the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front’s bid to seize power. The judge’s ruling led to six current Rwandan government officials being indicted and sought by France for trial.
Kagame has accused former French President Francois Mitterrand’s administration of training and providing weapons to the Hutu militias responsible for the killings.
Paris began to normalize relations with Rwanda after President Nicolas Sarkozy came to power in 2007. In February 2010, Sarkozy, on a trip to Kigali, said the French government had made serious errors of judgment over the massacre and wanted to ensure all those responsible for the slaughter were caught and punished.
On Kagame’s first state visit to France since the genocide in September, he emphasised his keenness to build economic and commercial ties with Paris.