Military

VOICE OF AMERICA
SLUG: 2-314606 Pentagon / Rwanda Genocide (L-O)
DATE:
NOTE NUMBER:

DATE=3/30/04

TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT

TITLE=PENTAGON/RWANDA GENOCIDE (L ONLY)

NUMBER=2-314606

BYLINE=ALEX BELIDA

DATELINE=PENTAGON

CONTENT=

VOICED AT:

INTRO: A recent French news report stirred controversy by alleging Rwanda's current president, Paul Kagame, was responsible for a missile attack that marked the start of the 1994 genocide. But V-O-A Correspondent Alex Belida reports from the Pentagon as the 10th anniversary of the killing draws near that declassified U-S government documents point at another culprit.

TEXT: The French newspaper Le Monde triggered an international controversy in early March when it reported on an investigation by a French judge into the April 6th, 1994 downing of an airplane carrying the then Rwandan president, Juvenal Habyarimana.

Le Monde, citing the judge's official report, said French authorities have concluded then Rwandan rebel leader Paul Kagame gave the orders for the missile attack that brought down the plane. Mr. Habyarimana's death marked the start of the Rwandan genocide.

Mr. Kagame is now Rwanda's president. He has rejected the French finding.

Newly-released, declassified U-S government documents also contradict the French version.

One is a memo to the Secretary of Defense written two days after the plane crash in Kigali. It says Hutu extremists "probably shot down the president's plane."

Another document, a May 9th, 1994 Defense Intelligence Agency report, also points to Hutu extremists -- this time, a group within Rwanda's military.

The D-I-A report explains that President Habyarimana, a Hutu, supported a reconciliation agreement with Mr. Kagame's mainly-Tutsi rebel group. It says Hutu hardliners were against the peace-and-power-sharing deal, especially provisions for integrating Tutsis into a new military.

The report then goes on to say, quoting now, that "fueled antipathy to the president among hardline elements within the Army, particularly the Presidential Guard." It concludes the plane crash, quoting again, "was actually an assassination conducted by Hutu military hardliners."

///OPT/// The State Department appeared to share that view. Another declassified document says the truth behind President Habyarimana's death may never be known. But there are, in the State Department document's words, "credible but unconfirmed reports that Hutu elements in the military" opposed to a peace deal with the Tutsis "killed Habyarimana in order to block the accords." ///END OPT///

Almost immediately after the president was killed, Hutu extremists began the systematic slaughter of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus who supported reconciliation. The violence was directed by high-level Rwandan government officials.

Bizarrely, that declassified memo to the then U-S Secretary of Defense written two days after the plane crash took an optimistic view of the situation.

It reported what the document termed "a glimmer of hope that this crisis is waning" -- based on the fact there had been a meeting between government and rebel generals and the leader of U-N peacekeepers in Rwanda.

But the meeting did not bring about a hoped-for cease-fire or a disengagement of forces. In the bloodshed that followed the assassination of the president, more than three-quarters of a million Rwandans died.

///REST OPTIONAL///

The declassified documents were obtained and released by the National Security Archive, an independent, non-governmental research institute attached to George Washington University in Washington, D-C. (Signed)

NEB/BEL/RH/MEM



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