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» 22.09.2010 - US fundamentalists "fight proxy war" in Uganda, Rwanda
» 22.04.2010 - Rwanda opposition leader conditionally released
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» 02.03.2010 - Former Rwandan first lady arrested
» 26.02.2010 - Rwandan officer sentenced to 25 years
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Rwanda genocide: What if Kagame killed Habyarimana?

afrol News, 24 November - The French judiciary claims to have proof indicating Rwanda's President Paul Kagame ordered his rebels to shoot down the plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana in April 1994. The Kigali government blames radical Hutu groups. But does this question really matter? Would Mr Kagame's assumed guilt mean the Rwandan genocide needs to be looked on differently?

Those most interested in claiming President Kagame is guilty of killing thus-President Habyarimana are the defence lawyers at the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). The lawyers, who defend those accused of the worst thinkable crimes against humanity during the 1994 genocide, claim that this would make the current regime in Rwanda co-responsible.

Kingsley Moghalu, a former special counsel of the Tribunal, reached a horrible conclusion in his recent book, "Rwanda's Genocide: the Politics of Global Justice". He claims that if Mr Kagame and the Tutsi rebels he led in April 1994 shot down the President's plane, then they triggered the genocide. Therefore, guilt for the genocide would need to be divided between the Tutsis and Hutus of Rwanda.

Critics of Mr Moghalu's conclusions - in the case they are not too outraged to be able to respond at all - say this theory is like saying the Germans and the Jews needed to share responsibility for the Holocaust, as the Jews had "triggered" bad feelings among Germans.

"Triggering" has become a word commonly used when mentioning the Habyarimana assassination. It "triggered the genocide", all journalists agree when writing about the current French case against President Kagame. If rebel leader Kagame killed President Habyarimana, then he "triggered" the genocide. That makes him co-responsible.

Forgotten is the fact that radical Hutu groups had been preparing for genocide for a long time. The Interahamwe militia was radicalised, armed and trained to start slaughtering Tutsis and moderate Hutus at a given signal. Hate speech had been transmitted through Hutu media, radicalising the population, which was easy to lead into supporting the slaughtering of their neighbours when the Interahamwe led the way. Lists of "enemies" to slaughter were ready. The apparatus was built.

This was when President Habyarimana was still alive. President Habyarimana, a close friend of the French, was himself not among the most radical Hutus, but his government included several of the leaders of the genocide, the Akazu.

The official story in contemporary Rwanda - where President Kagame undoubtedly has contributed to a conscious rewriting of history - is that it was the Akazu that stood behind President Habyarimana's assassination. These radical Hutus were against a power sharing deal agreed upon with Mr Kagame's Tutsi rebels in Arusha in 1993, and decided to get rid of the President and get on with the genocide they had planned.

But what if that is not true? What if President Kagame is covering up his own role from when he was commander of the Uganda-based Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) rebels. What if it was the RPF that wanted to get rid of President Habyarimana to avoid power sharing and grab total powers for themselves?

That would make Mr Kagame a coupist, for sure, but would it make him co-responsible for the genocide? Of course not. If based in Germany and trying to discuss whether the Jews were co-responsible for the Holocaust, one commits a criminal act, out of understandable reasons. This should not be different regarding the Rwandan genocide, because it was not the result of a war or an assassination, but of careful planning committed by Hutu extremists.

This has also been understood by the ICTR. Louise Arbour, when heading the Arusha tribunal, therefore ordered the court's prosecutor to stop investigations into the shooting down of President Habyarimana's plane. It was "not within the Tribunal's mandate," she said, acknowledging that the incident may have caused the Hutu extremists to start executing their genocide plan but that this plan was already developed and approved of.

The ICTR has failed to shed light on all the crucial details one needs to understand how the genocide was all planned and how the orders for its execution were given. But much is known about the detailed planning of the extremists in power in Kigali and their long preparation for the cruellest episode ever in African history. Enough to place guilt where it belongs.

Mr Kagame may have the blood of President Habyarimana, his Burundian counterpart and the airplane's partly French staff at his hands. This would however make him guilty of just another coup d'état in Africa in the 1990s. And - if interpreted very widely - of a terrorist attack; if interpreted more conservatively, of a political assassination that saw civilian victims. History and today's world is full of such, and although they should not be approved of, they are not prosecuted if not being part of systematic war crimes. Nobody accuses the RPF of that.

Rebel Kagame, while he may have stood behind the Habyarimana killing, later made more than up for himself. He led the RPF to victory over Rwanda's genocidal rulers without foreign help and as the outside world did nothing to stop the extremists from slaughtering around 800,000 civilians. Thanks to Mr Kagame and the RPF, there are still Tutsis in Rwanda and the genocide could be stopped before hundreds of thousands of more Rwandans were killed. And just that will for always be Mr Kagame's legacy.

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