Hell began breaking loose in Rwanda 24 years ago, shortly after President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane was shot down as it approached the airport from Tanzania. Also on board was Burundian Head of State, Cyprien Ntaryamira.
As evidence has shown after thorough investigations by teams of international experts, the missiles that brought it down were launched from the middle of Camp Kanombe, home of the Para Commando Battalion, just next door to Habyarimana’s residence.
His government was unwillingly involved in a series of peace talks with the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) taking place in Arusha, but the hardline wing, led by Colonel Theoneste Bagosora, were vehemently against it.
Bagosora is referred to as the “Architect of the Genocide”. And with good reason. In one session of the peace talks, he stormed out of the meeting threatening his RPF interlocutors that he was returning home to prepare the “Apocalypse”. And surely he did.
One part of the history of the Genocide that seems to have been ignored by historians is that it had been tried out two years before in Bugesera and Kibilira when thousands of Tutsis were massacred.
It is believed they were trying to gauge the international community’s reaction, and when the killings attracted little attention, it gave them the confidence to set the wheels in motion for the big one. It would only be a matter of time; what they needed was an excuse and Habyarimana was the sacrificial lamb.
Ironically, he had given his inner circle; the so called “Akazu”, led by his wife Agathe Kanziga and her brothers, free reign to plan the extermination of the Tutsi. He was his own first victim.
These are parts of the Rwandan tragedy that are rapidly being buried in history, a careful tool for denial. The story should not be left to die, we should tell it and keep it alive. Otherwise the trend of reversing roles which extremists and their backers are trying to patch up, might end up suggesting that the Tutsi planned and executed their own demise.
First Published by the New Times