It was 15 years ago this week that the Rwandan genocide began, during which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus would be slaughtered in just 100 days. Yesterday, a court in London refused to extradite four men to face trial in Rwanda for their alleged part in the massacres because of fears that they would not get a fair trial, though anti-genocide organisations decried the decision.
Three of the men were said to be local mayors who had organised killings, while the fourth was accused of being a militia organiser, and a close associate of the Hutu Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana. It was the death of President Habyarimana, when his aircraft was shot down on April 6, 1994, that sparked the violence.
Who targeted the Mystere Falcon – a gift from President Mitterand of France – remains a mystery. At first, extremist Hutus blamed Tusti rebels, led by Paul Kagame, and it was used as an excuse to begin the killing. Others though, including senior UN officials, believed that the culprits were more likely to be extremist Hutus who wanted to prevent President Habyarimana making a deal with the rebels, and, indeed, three days before the attack, an extremist radio station that would go on to help orchestrate the genocide, announced that “a little something” was about to happen.
Three years ago, though, a French investigative judge accused Mr Kagame, now the president of Rwanda, of being responsible. He was furious, and broke off diplomatic relations with France, and many other observers were highly sceptical about the claims, pointing out that the French were strong supporters of the old Hutu regime. President Kagame launched his own inquiry which accused 33 French military and political officials of being involved in the genocide, including President Mitterand.
See also my blogs of March 1, 4, 23 and 25.