Who Shot Down the Plane?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Who Shot Down the Plane?

One of the central mysteries of the Rwandan genocide is who shot down the plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994; the incident that set off a genocide that killed nearly one million people in 100 days.

The general consensus has been that it was shot down by hardline Hutus who were opposed to Habyarimana's willingness to agree to a power-sharing agreement with the Tutis rebels, the RPF.

But now a former RPF member says that it was, in fact, the rebel leader, and currrent Rwandan president, Paul Kagame who ordered the plane shot down
The major allegation in a book entitled "Rwanda. L'histoire secrete" by Lieutenant Abdul Ruzibiza, recently published, is that the current Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, ordered the shooting down of a plane carrying former president Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994 thereby triggering off the genocide.

"It is him who gave the order to shoot down the plane", firmly says 35-year old Ruzibiza - a defector from the former rebel Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) now in power in Kigali.

Ruzibiza claims to have been a member of the "network commando" which shot down the plane.


Of the 491 pages in the book, Ruzibiza narrates in 15 pages details of the preparation of the air attack and points out the authors. According to him, Paul Kagame chaired many meetings to plan the assassination, the last of which was held at the RPF headquarters in Mulindi (Byumba, northern Rwanda) on March 31, 1994.

Many of Kagame's associates were present, among them Colonels Kayumba Nyamwasa, Theoneste Lizinde and Lieutenant Colonel James Kabarebe.

In Ruzibiza's opinion, Habyarimana's death "was not an answer to Rwanda's ills but a way to grab power".

The author continues that the RPF first considered shooting Habyarimana "at close range on the route" but that that option was abandoned because he had reduced his travel by road.

The only remaining possibility was shooting down his plane. RPF then decided to transport to Kigali SA-16 missiles from the Ugandan arsenal. They could shoot the plane as it landed at Kigali airport.

The RPF managed to smuggle the missiles into Kigali by hoodwinking the Ghanaian contingent of the UN peacekeepers.

The weapon "was chosen because of its power, speed, and preheating which took less time".

Habyarimana "was almost killed on April 5, 1994 as he returned from Zaire, but it was not possible to place the missiles at the site in broad daylight".

The right occasion came up the next day when the president was returning from Dar es Salaam. He arrived over Kigali as night was falling.

Missiles had been placed on Masaka hill. Lizinde, a former officer in the Rwandan army, had picked out the spot.

The attack was carried out by two gunmen, a soldier who was deployed to protect them and a driver.

"The first person to fire, Captain Eric Hakizimana, touched the plane on its right wing but without bringing it down. 2nd Lieutenant Frank Nziza sent the next missile flying 3-4 seconds later and shot down the plane".

"I am an eye witness to what took place when the SA-16 was fired because I was present", writes Ruzibiza.

After the attack, soldiers of the RPF who had been readied in advance were assembled to immediately launch attacks which culminated in the fall of Kigali on July 4, 1994.
I don't know how credible Ruzibiza is, but this is certainly an interesting additon to attempts to answer this enduring and important question.

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