Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana. Internet photo
The Paris Court of Appeal on Monday, August 30, ruled against the request by Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana, the widow of former Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, not to be brought to justice over allegations of involvement in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
The development, according to some observers, implies that Kanziga is exhausting the appeals at her disposal in French law. But others are cautiously optimistic considering the current rapprochement between Rwanda and France at the highest levels.
While visiting Rwanda, French President Emmanuel Macron, on May 27, stressed the importance of his country facing its history regarding the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Genocide survivors showed optimism that his visit will send a message that Genocide fugitives and deniers are not welcome in France.
Asked whether there is any chance serious judicial moves are really going to be made on Kanziga, lawyer Richard Gisagara who lives in France noted that no one can tell with certainty.
He said: “No one can really tell. It has been 14 years that investigations have been going on. I don’t know what new (information) they are waiting to find.”
On whether Kanziga can or cannot press for another appeal immediately, Gisagara said: “No, she can’t do it any more, for now. But in the coming months she can start again.”
On a more postive note, Gisagara added: “I have reasonable hope that a decision will be taken in the coming days. As (President Emmanuel) Macron promised more means to the justice (system) to speed up the processing of those dossiers.”
Macron, on May 27, delivered the speech at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in which he sought the forgiveness of the survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, for what he admitted was his country’s historical and political responsibility in Rwanda.
Macron, among others, also committed to ensure that he would work to ensure no Genocide suspects escape justice.
During and after the Genocide against the Tutsi, instead of arresting ring leaders of the mass murders, French troops helped them flee, with many eventually being welcomed to stay in France where they remain up to now.
France is home to at least 47 indicted Genocide suspects and hundreds of deniers and revisionists.
Alain Gauthier, president of the France based rights group, Collectif des parties civiles pours le Rwanda (CPCR), which filed genocide charges against Kanziga 14 years ago, told The New Times that there is nothing so special about the latest developments.
Gauthier said: “Nothing particularly special. It is almost a non-event. The Court of Appeal rejected the defence’s request for dismissal. Agathe Habyarimana wanted the prosecution to stop. The case continues. Judicial information remains open.”
“Agathe Habyarimana is still not indicted. The judges are expected to visit Rwanda in the coming weeks. 14 years since we filed a complaint! Is there a real will to bring her to book? We doubt it.”
Ibuka: Where there is a will, there is a way
Naphtal Ahishakiye, the Executive Secretary of Ibuka told The New Times that 14 years is so long since in that period very many genocide survivors have passed on without seeing justice being delivered.
Nonetheless, Ahishakiye thinks that all hope is not lost considering what he lately sees as some encouraging degree of political will in France.
“Where there is a will, there is a way. Kanziga is now aged, just like (Felicien) Kabuga and others. And these people shouldn’t die before justice is done. They should be tried,” Ahishakiye said.
“The government of Rwanda, and survivors of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, consider her as one of the top architects of the genocide. It is shameful for her not to be brought to justice.”
For over two decades, genocide survivors, rights activists and the government of Rwanda wondered how Kanziga, 79, a wanted Genocide suspect, continues to evade justice.
Kanziga is one of the core members of Akazu, a small elite group that orchestrated the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
For over a decade she had been the subject of an investigation in France, according to reports.
Alain Gauthier, president of the France based rights group, Collectif des parties civiles pours le Rwanda (CPCR), which filed genocide charges against Kanziga 14 years ago, last year noted that when they first filed a complaint against Kanziga on February 14, 2007, “we were well aware that we were facing insurmountable difficulties.”
Politically, he indicated, they knew that it was unfathomable to see how France, which had welcomed her in the first days of the Genocide, with heavy indemnities and a bouquet of flowers, was going to be able, 13 years later, to accept to try her.
Despite the fact that she officially has no residence, it was noted, “that does not prevent her from spending happy days (apparently not that happy), in her villa in Courcouronnes, surrounded by part of her family,” which is far from being the case for many survivors of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
According to the CPCR, Kanziga could have been extradited, but the Court of Cassation opposed, on 42 occasions, and perhaps more, any transfer to Rwanda.
Last November, she appeared before a court in Paris for questioning in an ongoing investigation against Barril, a man who, among others, supplied arms and mercenaries on behalf of the French government to Rwanda’s genocidal government in 1994.
Kanziga is number one of the top the known Rwandan Genocide fugitives living in France, despite an arrest warrant issued by Rwanda.
Kigali’s extradition request was rejected by Paris in 2011 and there have never been any signs of a trial being set for her in France either.
In the past, French authorities denied her a residence permit. But they also never expelled her from the country.