French judges finish probe into attack that sparked Rwanda genocide

This file photo taken on Aug. 3, 1975 shows Rwandan president General Juvenal Habyarimana during a OUA (Organization of African Unity) summit in Kampala, Uganda. French anti-terror judges have ended an investigation into the missile attack on a plane that killed Habyarimana, sparking Rwanda's 1994 genocide, legal sources said on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 21 December 2017
0

French judges finish probe into attack that sparked Rwanda genocide

PARIS: French anti-terror judges have finished their investigation into the missile attack that sparked Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and will now decide whether to send the highly sensitive case to trial, legal sources said Thursday.
The missile strike on a plane near Kigali’s airport in April 1994 killed Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, triggering 100 days of bloodshed that left an estimated 800,000 people dead, mostly members of the Tutsi minority.
The genocide has caused two decades of tension between Paris and Kigali, which accuses France of complicity in the killings through its support and military training for Habyarimana’s Hutu forces who carried out most of the slaughter.
The French probe over the missile attack — set up in 1998 because the plane crew were French — has pointed the finger at members of a Tutsi militia headed by current Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Seven Tutsis have been charged in absentia by the French judges, including current Defense Minister James Kabarebe and Franck Nziza who allegedly fired the missile.
Having finished their probe, the judges will now await the opinion of the French prosecutor’s office on whether to take the case to trial and will then make a final decision at an unknown future date.
The Rwandan government has consistently blamed Hutu extremists for the assassination of Habyarimana, charging that they wanted to rid themselves of a president they considered too moderate.
Diplomatic ties broke down altogether between France and Rwanda for three years from 2006 when France sought the arrest of nine suspects, including the seven who have since been charged.
Relations recovered slowly in the years up to 2014 when French judges declared they had completed their investigation a first time.
But tensions resurfaced the same year when Kagame repeated accusations that French soldiers had been involved in the genocide and the relationship nosedived again in October last year when the investigating judges re-activated their probe.
They said they wanted to question dissident Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who has accused Kagame of being behind the missile attack, but South Africa — where he has refugee status — has refused permission for them to question him via videolink, sources told AFP.
Everyone onboard Habyarimana’s plane was killed in the surface-to-air missile attack, including Burundi’s President Cyprien Ntaryamira, who was on his way back from peace talks in Tanzania.
France at the time of the genocide was a major backer of the Hutus, and a new report commissioned by the Rwandan government this month repeated accusations that Paris wilfully ignored signs of a looming genocide.
Kigali launched an inquiry last year into the role of 20 French officials in the butchery.
Kagame’s government has further accused France for years of dragging its heels on prosecuting genocide suspects who fled there.
A man accused of transporting militiamen to the scene of a massacre in western Kibuye is set to face court in the third such trial in France, though the hearings have been suspended pending an appeal.
Kagame held rare talks in New York in September with France’s President Emmanuel Macron, who has since pledged to turn a page on a history of French meddling in francophone Africa.
In 2015, his predecessor Francois Hollande announced the declassification of French archives for the period covering the genocide, in what was considered a strong gesture on the 21st anniversary of the start of the killing.
But France’s highest court ruled in September that researchers could be barred from accessing the sensitive files because of a law protecting presidential archives for 25 years after the death of the head of state.
The president at the time, Francois Mitterrand, died in 1996, meaning his archives will not be made public until 2021.


Pilot survives after small plane crash off coast of Hawaii

A US Coast Guard vessel and other rescue boats respond to a plane crash off Honolulu, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018. (AP)
Updated 13 December 2018
0

Pilot survives after small plane crash off coast of Hawaii

  • The website of defense contractor BAE Systems says the Hawker Hunter is a British jet developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s

HONOLULU: A civilian contractor for the Hawaii Air National Guard who was participating in a military exercise survived after his plane crashed off the coast of Honolulu, authorities said Wednesday.
US Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Sara Muir says the pilot is in stable condition after being rescued about 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) south of Oahu near Honolulu’s Sand Island.
Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said a Hawker Hunter jet went down in the ocean around 2:25 p.m. after taking off from Honolulu’s airport.
The pilot had been participating in a military exercise called Sentry Aloha exercise, said US Coast Guard Petty Officer Matthew West. The Hawaii Air National Guard was hosting the exercise, which involved about 800 personnel and 30 aircraft from nine states.
Departing flights from the Honolulu airport were held as a precaution for about 20 minutes, said Tim Sakahara, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation.
The Hawker Hunter is a British jet developed in the late 1940s and early 1950s, said the website of defense contractor BAE Systems.
Initially, a single-seat version was used as a maneuverable fighter aircraft. It was later used as both a fighter and bomber and for reconnaissance missions.
The British navy and air force continued to use a two-seat version into the early 1990s.
Britain exported the plane, and it was also used by the air forces of 21 other nations.