Hirondelle is a very sober, Swiss-funded news service that does a lot of coverage of justice affairs in Rwanda. So I sat up sharply when I read this piece on one of their recent newsfeeds. It is a short review of a book newly published in France by Lieutenant Abdul Ruzibiza, who states that as a member of a trusted commando group under the control of the country’s present president, Paul Kagame, he was a member of the unit that shot down the plane of former president Juvenal Habyarimana in April 1994.
That attack– which killed both Habyarimana and the president of neighboring Burundi– led in very short order to the unleashing of the maelstrom of genocidal violence that engulfed Rwanda for 100 days, leaving an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and 200,000 Hutus dead there.
The Hirondelle reporter writes that Ruzibiza is categorical that it was Kagame who gave the order to shoot down the plane. The reporter adds about Ruzibiza:
- His book published by editions Panama in Paris is a war diary that retraces “the October war day by day” and the ensuing atrocities committed by different factions especially members of the RPF.
The armed conflict which took place in Rwanda between October 1990 and July 1994 was christened the “October War”. [It was in the last 13 weeks of that period– after the shooting-down of Habyarimana’s plane– that the genocide occurred. ~HC]
Nearly all books on the Rwandan genocide gave a wide coverage to human rights violations committed by the government side [that was then in power, i.e., before the RPF takeover] but very little has been documented in the zone controlled by the RPF.
As an “insider”, Ruzibiza was on many fronts and had first hand information on what went on in the “liberated” zones where the population was huddled together and killed en masse.
Ruzibiza does not hesitate to use the term “genocide of Hutus” and according to him, the rebel [i.e. RPF] high command “had given orders to commanders of different units and intelligence officers to kill as many Hutus as possible especially if they were found grouped together”.
The author considers April 1994 “the worst month in the history of Rwanda”. Apart from the massive genocide of Tutsis, “a large number of Hutu citizens were massacred because of a crime not all of them committed; that of having exterminated Tutsis”.
Ruzibiza is quick to warn those who might be tempted to misinterpret his book to forward the “double genocide” theory. “It should not be understood that way. The Genocide of Hutus should neither be blamed on Tutsis nor that of Tutsis on Hutus. The gravity of these crimes surpasses ethnic dimensions. Those who committed these crimes are savages who should individually answer for them”…
Well, there’sa huge food for thought there. Most accounts of the shooting down of the plane say, in effect, that the identity of the shooters is shrouded in mystery. There have been some accusations from French officials that that Kagame and his RPF were responsible– but they seemed fairly easy to discount, given the strong antipathy between the French and the RPF.
The publication of this book– and the fact that the Hirondelle team, whose members are very familiar with the politics of Rwanda (many of them also being, in fact, Rwandan), gives such serious attention to it– means that some of these key but until now murky facts about Rwanda’s history may be becoming a little clearer.
No, of course it is false to say that if the RPF shot down the plane, then that in any way “excuses” the anti-Tutsi genocide. Nothing does that. But still, it does mean that Kagame’s role in the events is not quite the shining “saint” role that many in the west have attributed to him.
Okay, here’s why I’m writing about this here. Yes, partly in case any of you wants to join a discussion on this issue. But also to make a request that perhaps some kind JWN reader living in France might be able to get hold of a copy of the book and send it to me.
I shall of course be happy to reimburse all the costs involved.
And, um, just so I don’t get a truckload of copies landing on my doorstep, if you think you might be able to do this, could you drop me a line? Thanks!