"Nkurunziza radioed to Kagame asking for instructions as to what to do with these Hutu churchmen. Kagame replied in Swahili: "FAGIA" meaning: clean up or eliminate, kill!" - Remigius Kintu: To the Maryland Peace & Justice Annual Conference, 04.19.97 .
Riddle of the Rwandan assassins trail
Jon Swain, Kampala
Bullets silence aides with missile secret
It had all the hallmarks of a gangland killing. When the police found the blood-soaked corpse of David Kiwanuka, a Rwandan, in the boot of an abandoned car with a bullet in his head, they shrugged their shoulders and put it down to a turf-war between African criminal gangs. But the shooting of 30-year-old Kiwanuka, a former hitman working for the Rwandan intelligence service, is anything but an open and shut case.
His murder on February 24 in Kenya, where he was living in exile from Rwanda, is the latest in a string of mysterious deaths thought to be linked to an event 10 years ago that triggered Africas largest genocide in modern times. This was the shooting down of the Rwandan presidential jet, which caused the government to fall and led to the mass slaughter of hundreds of thousands of people. The assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana remains an unsolved crime to this day.
But at least 10 people who were involved, or may have known too much, have been eliminated. Kiwanuka, who had sought to give evidence to United Nations investigators about the attack, is the latest to have been found dead, but he may not be the last. An increasing number of investigators who have studied the killing of Habyarimana now believe that the missiles that brought down his aircraft were fired by rebel forces under the command of Paul Kagame, the current president.
Frances top anti-terrorist judge has spent six years on his inquiry. His dossier, running to more than 6,000 pages, is not complete but it carries details of Kagames suspected link to the missile plot. It is supported by a secret internal UN memorandum, which states that an elite commando network under the command of Gen Paul Kagame planned and executed the rocket attack. Uncomfortable as the truth may be, the witnesses and investigators say that Kagames rebels must have fired the missiles, well aware that Tutsis in Rwanda would be slaughtered as a consequence.
If what they are saying and the contents of the French judges dossier are true, then Kagames rise to power aided by an elite group of soldiers in his rebel army known as Network Commando was inextricably linked to the murder of thousands of his own countrymen. The chain of subsequent deaths includes those of Kiwanukas controller in Kenya, Alphonse Mbayire, an intelligence officer working undercover as a diplomat in the Nairobi embassy, who was shot in the face.
Among the others eliminated was Colonel Theoneste Lizinde, whose body was thrown out of a moving car. He had proposed the best site for launching the missiles. Then there was Seth Sendashonga, a former government minister who had fled Rwanda for Kenya and wanted to testify to UN war crimes investigators about the shooting down of the plane and about civilian massacres by Kagames forces.
Also killed were Major John Birasa, a member of Network Commando in charge of weapons; Captain H Kamugisha, an intelligence officer; Wilson Rutayisira, a close aide to Kagame; and Sergeant Peter Sempa, one of four soldiers who transported the missiles to Kigali, the capital, where they were readied to fire. Sempa concealed the missiles in a lorry carrying firewood.
Another man living with this secret has gone into hiding in Norway. Captain Abdul Ruzibiza, of Network Commando, was one of a small team which, he says, shot down the plane. It was my duty. I had no choice but to look at the horror it created, he said.
Before the genocide brought the tiny landlocked country to international attention, Rwanda was a backwater in Africa, renowned for its natural beauty and the wildlife living in its mist-shrouded hills. To visiting westerners it was about the naturalist Dian Fossey and her gorillas in the mist the rare mountain apes she had saved from extinction. Since 1994, however, all that has changed. Now, in popular imagination, Rwanda speaks of skulls, mass graves, war criminals and machetes. Rwanda is shorthand for atrocity. In the genocide that started in April of that year, more than 800,000 people were slaughtered in 100 days as a long- simmering conflict between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis boiled over.
Most of the dead were the minority Tutsis and most of those who perpetrated the slaughter were the dominant Hutus. The Tutsis were butchered in their homes, bludgeoned at roadblocks while trying to escape, even herded into churches and burnt to death. In the most sudden and swift massacre of a people in history, an average of 8,000 were hacked to pieces each day as neighbour killed neighbour. Some days as many as 45,000 were slaughtered. The world looked on, wrung its hands and did nothing.
It was the death of the Hutu president Habyarimana that provided the catalyst for the killings. His jet was struck by two missiles as it came in to land at the international airport at Kigali, the Rwandan capital, at 8.30pm on April 6. The plane broke up and parts of the mangled wreckage fell on the presidential garden. It was also carrying the president of neighbouring Burundi, senior officials and three French aircrew. All on board died. The Hutu majority embarked on a genocide for which hardline elements had long prepared. Incited by an extremist Hutu radio station that broadcast lists of people to be killed and where to find them, they began an orgy of slaughter, blaming the Tutsis for shooting down the presidents plane. The radio called for a final war to exterminate the cockroaches, as it called the Tutsis. The indoctrinated Hutu masses, manipulated by a political system that required unquestioning obedience to authority, responded by taking up machetes, knives and clubs.
As a foreign correspondent covering Africa for this newspaper, I travelled to Rwanda just as the grisly task of bringing the Hutu killers to justice was getting under way. The country was still traumatised, reeling from the scale of the slaughter, trying to come to terms with the bloodshed. It was a land of suffering, recriminations and reprisals. The jails were heaving with people arrested for the mass murders 90,000 are still in prison. The UN was paralysed by guilt. Its peacekeeping troops had been supervising a ceasefire between the government and the Tutsi-led rebel force, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) under Kagame.
But the UN force was a token 2,000 men, mostly ill-equipped Bangladeshis reluctant to fight. They sabotaged their own armoured cars by putting rags in the exhaust pipes. When General Romeo Dallaire, the commander, pleaded for more soldiers, the UN security council refused to help. Instead the Canadian generals UN force was cut to just 270, powerless to stop hundreds of thousands of Tutsis being subjected to a horrible death.
Not all humans are human in the international context, Dallaire has said. Some countries are seen as important, but we have coldly created a tier of orphan nations. Im sure there would have been more reaction if someone had tried to exterminate Rwandas 300 mountain gorillas.
The supporters of Habyarimana at once blamed Kagame, the leader of the RPF Tutsi guerrillas, for killing a Hutu leader who had ruled Rwanda for 21 years. Few observers countenanced that Tutsi rebels could have shot down the plane. Sympathies lay with the victims, the slaughtered Tutsis. Perhaps the most credible explanation at the time and one still accepted by large parts of the international community, including Britain was that the president had been assassinated by Hutu extremists before he could agree to power-sharing demands by Kagames rebels.
Now that picture is changing in a controversial way. A criminal investigation by Jean-Louis Bruguière, the celebrated anti-terrorist French judge, on behalf of the families of the presidential Falcon-50 jets aircrew, has uncovered evidence indicating that Kagames RPF fired the missiles. However, if the rebels did attack the aircraft in an attempt to win power, the burning question remains: did Kagame know about it or specifically order it?
In the ensuing carnage, Kagames rebels advanced and rapidly triumphed. Kagame, a patrician, austere and feared man, is now president and the dominant figure in Rwandan politics. He is feared because his modus operandi has been the ruthless, systematic elimination of political threats. But he is the darling of western donors and he has no stauncher western supporter than Britain, his governments largest source of financial aid. This week he will be presiding over a sombre ceremony to mark the 10th anniversary of the genocide. He has called for the world to observe a minutes silence at noon on Wednesday.
Kagames background is typical of the Tutsi rebels who run Rwanda today. His family had fled a previous pogrom when he was aged two and he ended up in Uganda, fighting in a civil war that brought President Yoweri Museveni to power. Many Rwandan Tutsis were in the new Ugandan army. Kagame himself was appointed head of Ugandas military intelligence. But in 1990 he and 4,000 Rwandan Tutsi soldiers mutinied. They emptied the Ugandan army weapons stores and crossed into Rwanda to launch a struggle aimed at overthrowing Habyarimanas Hutu-dominated regime.
The fighting ended in the ceasefire monitored by the UN. Bruguière has obtained sworn statements from former agents of Network Commando. They have told him that they were involved in the plot to shoot down Habyarimana, were acting on Kagames orders and obtained the missiles from Ugandan army stores. In a critical breakthrough, the judges investigators went to Moscow and were able to corroborate their stories by tracing the serial numbers of the two SA-16 missiles that brought down the jet. The Russian authorities have told them that both missiles, numbered 04814 and 04835, were sold by the former Soviet Union to the Ugandan army, of which Kagame and his Tutsi rebels were once a part.
The Sunday Times has seen an internal UN memorandum, marked Secret, which has been incorporated in the Bruguière dossier. Michael Hourigan, a former Australian crown prosecutor who was a member of the UN team investigating the principal perpetrators of the genocide, is its author. He quotes sources in Rwanda advising that a highly secret attack team in Kagames RPF had carried out the missile strike. The sources have all confirmed that the network under the command of Gen Paul Kagame planned and executed the rocket attack upon President Habyarimana, his memorandum says. It goes on to describe the network as a cell of elite soldiers who are activated from time to time to conduct high-level assassinations.
A few weeks after he submitted this memo, Hourigans investigation was closed down by Judge Louise Arbour, chief prosecutor of the UNs Rwandan war crimes tribunal. She said that it was not part of the tribunals mandate. Kagame himself refutes all the allegations and is untroubled by the possible publication of Bruguières report.
If I am guilty of anything concerning Habyarimana, I can confess that I am not sorry he died. I dont miss him at all, he has been quoted as saying.
But if his men did shoot down the plane, it will require everyone, including Britain, to re-examine their approach to Rwanda.
Filip Reyntjens, a world authority on the country, said: Shooting down the plane is a terrorist act. Where does that put a number of countries that support Kagame while at the same time they fight terrorism after 9/11? This is a huge political problem.
Alison des Forges, a Rwanda expert at Human Rights Watch, believes further investigations leading to a prosecution should follow. You cant leave this in the realm of doubt, she said.
She has a surprising ally in her desire for justice. From his hiding place in Norway, Ruzibiza has had time to repent: To be a member of Network Commando was not our own choice. We were working under orders and fearing we would be killed if we refused.
He left Rwanda in February 2001 and moved to Uganda, and finally to the safety of Norway. Ruzibiza said that he had been sent as a spy into Kigali four months before the assassination to find the best site for the attack. Working with two gunners and one guard they took the missiles to the site, hidden beneath empty packing cases and rubbish in a Toyota LandCruiser driven by Sergeant Didier Mazimpaka.
When the presidents jet, recognizable by the distinctive roar of its engines, approached the runway, they fired. The first missile, launched by Corporal Eric Hakizimana, touched the right wing. Seconds later Lieutenant Frank Nziza brought down the aircraft with a second missile. At his rebel headquarters at Mulindi, north of Kigali, Kagame was watching an African Cup football match on television with his officers. When the deed had been done, Ruzibiza recalls, a signal was sent. An officer came into the room, having written Habyarimana on the palm of his left hand with a cross. He approached Kagame and held up his hand. Amid general euphoria Kagame mobilised his forces for an immediate advance on the capital. As Ruzibiza says, everything was going to plan. Chaos and murder followed and with the collapse of the government Kagame was able to march into Kigali and seize power in July.
For 10 years Kagame has been saying to people and the international community that he stopped the genocide, Ruzibiza added. It did not happen as something falling from heaven. The Habyarimana government played its role and Kagame played his role. Together they put Rwanda in a situation where killing was inevitable.
Kagames government describes the allegations as a fabrication. It claims Ruzibiza fled Rwanda because of a corruption investigation and the soldiers he has named as launching the missiles do not exist. To which Ruzibiza counters: Let Kagame be brought to justice and then we will see who is wrong and who is right.
POSTED BY EDITOR AT 22:55
LABELS: KAGAME, RWANDA
SOURCE:World News Journal: Bullets Silence Aides With Missile Secret.