, NAIROBI, Jan 7 – Extremists inside Rwanda\\\’s Hutu regime were responsible for the death of president Juvenal Habyarimana in a 1994 airplane crash that preceded a genocide, a Rwandan probe into the assassination says.
According to the findings of a fact-finding panel, set up in April 2007 by the Kigali government, ranking members of the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) were behind the attack that it said was part of a coup bid aimed at averting any power-sharing with Tutsi rebels.
"The committee looked into various assumptions and now is convinced that the former FAR are fully responsible for the preparation and execution of the attack that cost the lives of presidents Habyarimana and (Cyprien) Ntaryamira (of Burundi), the French Falcon 50 crew and the Rwandan and Burundian passengers in their company," said its report of which AFP saw a copy Wednesday.
The executive jet carrying Habyarimana and Ntaryamira was shot down with surface-to-air missiles as it was approaching Kigali on April 6, 1994.
Habyarimana, a Hutu, had returned from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, where he had taken part in a summit in which negotiations with Tutsi rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front played a major role.
French lawyer Bernard Maingain, who represents Rwandan presidential aide Rose Kabuye, told AFP the Rwandan report was an "extraordinary contribution" to the investigation which is also being carried out by France.
"The Rwandan side has done a job that any magistrate should have done: go there, speak to the people who saw what happened," he said.
Kabuye has been charged with "complicity in murder in relation to terrorism" over the downing of Habyarimana\\\’s plane.
A former guerrilla fighter who now is Rwandan President Paul Kagame\\\’s chief of protocol, Kabuye was arrested in Germany on November 9 and transferred to Paris to face charges.
The Rwandan panel said it did not see any French involvement in Habyarimana\\\’s assassination, but noted that French military officials stationed in Rwanda as part of a military agreement with the late president\\\’s regime had had access to the plane wreck.
The investigating committee said the French officials walked away with the downed aircraft\\\’s flight recorder and missile debris.
Kigali has repeatedly accused France of siding with the Hutus who carried out the genocide in which 800,000 people, essentially minority Tutsis, were massacred between the assassination and July 1994.
Paris has always denied accusations of involvement in the genocide.
The two countries said in November they would resume diplomatic relations and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Wednesday arrived in Kigali for his first visit to the former colony since the announcement.