3 min 59Approximate reading time

Paris, January 27 2007 (FH) -Agathe Kanziga, the wife of the late President of Rwanda Juvénal Habyarimana assassinated on April 6th 1994, went through a two-hour long interrogation on Thursday 25th at the Refugee Appeals Board to defend her right to be granted the status of refugee in France. She had appealed the rejection of her initial demand for asylum in France by the French Office of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA, acronym in French) in January 2006. On January 4 2007, the OFPRA had concluded there were « reasons to believe » the applicant had participated in the genocide. This is the « verdict » the rapporteur of the Appeals Commission has upheld. The prosecutor, Mr. Jan Koszmaluk, really brought strong allegations against the appellant. In turns ironic and hard, he urges Agathe Kanziga to explain her role in the genocide, to talk about the Akazu and its influence. In a professorlike voice, he peppers his speech with sharp warnings: « You must answer, Mrs. Kanziga formerly Habyarimana ». In reply to the attorneys who are pointing that no action has been taken against their client either in Paris or at the UN tribunal in Arusha, the rapporteur reminds that indictments under seal still remain and that the name of Agathe Kanziga appears in the files of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Mr. Jan Koszmaluk then fiercely brushes off the conclusions of Judge Bruguière’s investigation. « There are five theories », he declares, as to who, the authors of the attack of April 6 1994 in Kigali, were and what motives they had. Unsurprisingly, the rapporteur finally renders a negative opinion. Then, before the president of the Commission, Agathe Kanziga denies any participation in the genocide. Mrs. Kanziga, formerly Habyarimana, used to participate « in community chores with other women: gardening, support for the elderly and the orphans ». But they didn’t talk politics at home. The widow knows nothing. Kangura? « I’ve never heard of it…Honestly, Mr. President! » The RTLM? « They said it was a radio which aired insults to radio Muhabura (…) but I never listened to this radio. I listened to Radio Rwanda. » What about Pauline Nyiramasuhuko?, [a former minister tried in Arusha] the president asks, apologizing as he mispronounces the name. « It’s the parties that appointed the ministers! Not me! ». While some were planning the genocide, Mrs. Kanziga was taking care of the garden and raising her hens, a far cry from the hustle of the country. « My husband was a president with great dignity, he made his decisions himself ». She spent three days from April 6th to 9th 1994, the day she was evacuated, mourning. « My husband had just died…Who would I have given instructions to? ». On the night of the attack against the president’s plane, « I was with my children. There were Jeanne and Marie Merci and her cousins. We saw flashes of light falling in the garden. I got scared, I went up to my small chapel and I prayed and prayed…Later, the children told me it had their been daddy’s plane…». Mrs. Kanziga talks about the wake, stifles a halfhearted sob. « My husband had just died…No one ever felt sorry for me. Why these illegitimate accusations against me? », she says. The president is staring at her. « In my house, I’ve spoken neither with the military nor with the civil authorities. » « But your role, Madam? » the presidents insists, on the strength of reports of international agencies and works of historians and journalists, of the accumulation of elements which all point towards Agathe Kanziga and make her an asylum seeker unlike others. « The authors of these reports are foreigners. Were they with me every night? ». « In your opinion, they all take orders from the RPF? »,[former rebels now in power] the president asks, still dubious. « I’m telling you, I’m telling you. » And the Akazu? « If there ever was an Akazu, I wasn’t a member. Political decisions were not made from home! It’s a slanderous plot. It’s an invention of opposition political parties ». Concerning the list of leaders to be killed, a list which, if we refer to the testimony Michel Bagaragaza has made in Arusha, would have been established at the president’s personal house, she knows nothing. Anyway, she explains, this witness has scores to settle with Protais Zigiranyirazo, and his testimony is not credible. Were there any ethnic tensions? « This tension did not exist under the presidency of my husband (…) After he took the power, there has been no massacre of Tutsis in my country. We’ve had 17 years of peace. But in October 1990, they have attacked, they have slaughtered people. » They? The RPF. The genocide? « I never could deny this tragedy. It killed my husband…They have attacked, and they have massacred. That very night, they committed massacres at the CND but no one will talk about it. It wasn’t only the Tutsis, the Hutus have been massacred too. As a whole, it’s a tragedy. » Assertive and full of self rectitude, her two French attorneys at her side and with the support of a sympathizing audience, Agathe Kanziga apostrophizes the president « If you mean to talk about the genocide, you must not talk about the Tutsis only ». She asks: « The genocide would have made 300 to 400.000 victims but then, what of the 3.5 million Hutus who have been killed? » The widow enunciates her own body count: « 6 millions of persons died » in the forests of Zaire in 1997. « Six millions? » the president repeats, his eyes locked onto the appellant. « I’m telling you! », she stated overbearingly. During a two-hour battle, the widow tried to prove her innocence. One of the members of the Commission, finally weary, asks: « If we follow you reasoning, you are not afraid of the ICTR either? » « I can go to Arusha, as long as I am protected… ». SM/PB © Hirondelle News Agency