On the evening of 6 April 1994, the airplane carrying Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira, was shot down with surface-to-air missiles as it prepared to land in Kigali. The assassination set in motion one of the bloodiest events of the late 20th century: the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Responsibility for the attack is disputed, with Rwandan enemies alleging that the Presidential plane was shot down by the then Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) forces. Rwandan enemies further claim that the Genocide against the Tutsi was spontaneous and was triggered by the shooting of the presidential plane which is not true as all the available facts point to a carefully targeted Hutu plan of extermination. The planned extermination is partly explained by the fact that in addition to Col Bagosora’s statement that he was going to prepare an apocalypse upon his return from Arusha, the extremist radio RTLM had announced long before that “there would be something in the city of Kigali’’ and it is on record that on April 06, towards 15h00, the entire city of Kigali was under tight surveillance and the population was ordered to go home shortly before the shooting down of the plane. What followed in the subsequent hours suggests that Bagosora and his cohorts were prepared to start the genocide that ensued after Habyarima’s death. The killing started almost immediately, beginning with those whose names were on the death lists drawn up in the months and years before. This confirms that the Genocide against the Tutsi was not spontaneous but planned in advance.
As further proof that the genocide against the Tutsi had been planned well before the shooting of the presidential plane, there is evidence that the shooting of the plane carrying Habyarimana and Ntaryamira wasn’t deliberate as the shooters had initially targeted Cyprien Ntaryamira’s plane which was behind the one carrying both Habyarimana and Ntaryamira but due to poor communication and coordination between the perpetrators and their handlers, they ended up hitting a wrong target. It had been initially planned that by shooting Ntaryamira’s plane which had no VIP on board during the return flight from Arusha would be blamed on the Rwandan Patriotic Army and provide a good pretext to exterminate Tutsis claiming that they had planned to shoot down Habyarimana’s plane but missed it. The Hutu extremists in conjunction with Habyarimana hoped that the incident would disrupt the whole process of establishing a Transitional Government that had been agreed upon with the RPA/F. It is common sense that no any other person except those who were very close to the regime including the likes of Bagosora and Serubuga knew about the two planes and the exact plane the two Presidents used. It is also important to note that before the shooting of the presidential plane, Ngeze Hassan had predicted the attempt on Habyarimana’s life published in his Kangura Newspaper in March 1994.
Additionally, for those who were still doubting on who was behind the downing of the presidential plane, the recent declassification of information by French authorities pointing to Col. Bagosora and Serubuga as the main instigators of the shooting of the presidential plane puts the matter to rest and will undoubtedly make Rwandan enemies run mad.
The latest revelation confirms previous reports pointing to Hutu extremists specifically Col. Bagosora and Serubuga as the perpetrators of the shooting of the Presidential plane. It is important to highlight that both Col. Bagosora and Serubuga were retired in 1992, at the instigation of President Habyarimana. The unexpected retirement was a significant source of resentment, considering that both Colonels hoped to rise to the rank of General which could consequently put them in position to compete for the highest office in the land. This, coupled with the fluid situation at the time, led to the decision by Hutu extremists championed by Bagosora and Serubuga to shoot down the plane, well knowing that it could be blamed on the RPA/F.
Like Chinua Achebe’s famous novel of “Things Fall Apart” in which he uses an epigraph of the “Center that no longer Holds”, the current revelation pointing to Bagosora and Serubuga as responsible for the downing of Habyarimana’s plane is a huge blow to genocide ideologues who have always maintained a narrative that the RPF was responsible for the attack on the plane, an event considered, by their sympathizers, to have triggered the genocide against the Tutsi. It remains to be seen whether the center shall remain to hold for the loose coalition of Rwandan subversive elements especially those making up the P5 platform including Amahoro-PC, FDU-Inkingi, PDP- Imanzi, PS-Imberakuri and RNC/Kayumba Nyamwasa faction since one of their most revered stories revolved around accusing the RPF for shooting president Habyarimana’s plane which allegedly led to the Genocide against the Tutsi, an insinuation that it’s the RPF that instigated the Genocide against the Tutsi.
As written in the bible, “then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. Since justice has been served by arresting and prosecuting Bagosora by the ICTR and his subsequent imprisonment to 35 years in jail in 2011, it’s important for the international community to bring to book all genocide suspects hiding in different countries. Specifically, it is incomprehensible how one of the main genocide fugitives, Col. Serubuga remains at large in France amidst past and latest reports regarding his role in the genocide. For our readers who don’t know who Col Serubuga is and his role in the genocide, below is the story:
Who is Col. Laurent Serubuga?
- Laurent Serubuga was born on 1 January 1939 in the village of Ruhunga, Rwanda. He belonged to the circle of the “Comrades of the Fifth of July”, a group of eleven army officers who orchestrated a coup d’état in 1973 in order to bring Juvénal Habyarimana to power. Serubuga quickly became the right-hand man of the new president, and was given the position of Deputy Chief of Staff in the Rwandan Army – the highest in the army after that of the President. From that moment on, Serubuga was known as Colonel Serubuga.
- At the same time, Serubuga was a member of “Akazu”, an informal organisation close to the President and composed of Hutu extremists. This group strongly contributed to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi. As Serubuga’s political and military influence grew, Habyarimana, who felt increasingly threatened, decided to push him into early retirement in 1992.
- On 30 April 1994, shortly after the beginning of the genocide against the Tutsi, the Ministry of Defence addressed a message to Serubuga, offering him to be reinstated in his former position. Serubuga accepted, and officially rejoined the army on 2 May 1994.
- It is on record that Serubuga supported the self-defence forces, which were perceived as the body in charge of managing the genocide. Serubuga is also accused of having planned the genocide. In particular, he is said to have lead attacks in the region of Giciye, although no formal evidence has been presented to support this allegation.
- At the end of the genocide, Serubuga fled the country. He first settled to Kenya, then moved to France in 1998. Once in France, Serubuga, who possessed a residence permit, applied for refugee status. In June 2002, the French Refugee Appeals Board denied his request. The Board contended that, although Serubuga’s role in the genocide was unclear, it could not be denied that in his capacity of Deputy Chief of Staff in the Rwandan army, he at least had the knowledge of the mass atrocities perpetrated by the combatants under his command, and did nothing to stop them.
- On 6 January 2000, several NGOs, including the FIDH, lodged a complaint against Serubuga with the Prosecutor’s office of the Court of Strasbourg. However, the prosecutor refused to investigate on the basis of the lack of evidence.
- A new complaint was filed at the end of the year 2000. This time, the Prosecutor decided to open an investigation against the former colonel. However, the investigation was extremely lengthy, and only after Rwanda issued an international arrest warrant in May 2013 did the French authorities arrest Serubuga. The arrest warrant ordered by the Prosecution’s office charged Serubuga with genocide and crimes against humanity.
- On 12 September 2013, the Court of Appeal of Douai denied the extradition of the accused and ordered his release.
With latest revelations, it remains to be seen if France will simply keep quiet and leave Serubuga to continue moving scot-free. It also remains to be seen how Rwandan subversive groups and their sympathizers shall behave in the wake of the new revelations regarding those who downed the presidential plane. Watch this space!