Rwanda opposition wants fresh probe into plane attack

11 January 2012 - 14:58 By Sapa-AFP

Rwanda's opposition in exile on Wednesday demanded further probing into the shooting down of former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane, the event that triggered the 1994 genocide.

"We encourage French justice to continue its investigations and call for an international inquiry," the two main parties said in a joint statement.

The Unified Democratic Forces (UDF) are headed by Victoire Ingabire, who is herself on trial in Kigali for supporting a terrorist group.

Co-signatory Rwanda National Congress (RNC) is made up largely of former comrades-in-arms of President Paul Kagame.

Experts mandated by a French inquiry to probe the downing of the plane 18 years ago have cleared Kagame's aides of involvement, their lawyer Bernard Maingain said late Tuesday.

The experts concluded that the missile that downed the plane was fired from a base held by Habyarimana loyalists, Maingain said.

There was no official confirmation of the report's findings and the judicial inquiry continues.

But the report was swiftly welcomed by Kigali as a "vindication" for Kagame.

The assassination of Habyarimana was one of the triggers that unleashed a genocide that left around 800,000 Rwandans, essentially Tutsis, dead.

The question of where the missile was fired from was seen as key to establishing the credibility of two rival accounts of the attack.

The presidential jet's pilots were French citizens, giving French anti-terror judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere grounds to investigate.

France placed a group of Rwandans close to Kagame under investigation for the attack, sparking a breakdown in diplomatic relations.

But Marc Trevidic, a new judge who took over the case, travelled to Rwanda with a team of experts in 2010 to determine where the missile was fired from, something Bruguiere never did.

The opposition parties however said they were not convinced by the new findings.

"Considering the level of infiltrations and deployments of operatives in Kigali city and its surroundings by the then rebellion," no firing spot can rule out the involvement of Kagame's people, the statement argued.

"Only an international inquiry composed by experts from different countries will pave the way to justice denied," it said, vowing to produce "very credible witnesses".