24.11.09 - RWANDA/FRANCE - FRENCH JURISTS ARRIVE IN KIGALI FOR GENOCIDE INVESTIGATIONS

Arusha, November 24, 2009 (FH) -The first team of two senior French jurists have arrived in Kigali Monday to investigate genocide crimes committed by some Rwandan fugitives currently residing in France.
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The Prosecutor General of Rwanda, Martin Ngoga, told Hirondelle Agency Tuesday that the team would be in the country for about week to evaluate  evidence of the April-July 1994 killings, which according to the United Nations estimates, claimed lives of about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

‘'It is the right thing done...I hope they will make more such visits,'' he added.

Ngoga said that the Rwandan government had issued twelve indictments to France for genocide suspects, but none of them had been charged. ‘'Unfortunately, there had not been any remarkable progress [in the arrests of the suspects],'' he stressed.

France is one of the countries said by Rwanda to have the biggest number of indicted and unindicted key fugitives, mostly former senior government officials, businessmen and clergymen, pinned for playing a significant role in the genocide.

Among top suspects is Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana, wife of the former Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana.

Agathe Kanziga is accused to have at times chaired the meetings of the inner-circle Akazu, a Hutu power movement which is accused by rwandan authorities to have planned the killings. The former first lady was recently denied refugee status in France.

Observers consider the fact-finding visit of the French jurists as landmark development because of the strained relations between Kigali and Paris.

Rwanda severed diplomatic relations in 2006 after a French investigating judge issued arrest warrants for nine ranking Rwandans suspected of plotting the downing of former President Habyarimana's airplane on April 6, 1994 - an act that sparked the country's genocide.

When Kagame won the war in July 1994, Rwanda's official language changed from French to English. Rwanda has also applied now to become a member of Commonwealth countries, a group of former British colonies.

Rwanda alleges that France backed Hutu militias in 1994, a charge that Paris has always vehemently denied.

However, a meeting between President Kagame and French President Nicolas Sarkozy in December 2007 cooled relations and paved way to the visit of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to Kigali in January, 2008.

During the visit, Kouchner was quoted to have said that France bore no "military responsibility" but did commit a "political fault" by failing to understand what was happening during 1994 genocide. He also said that normalizing diplomatic ties with Rwanda was a necessity. So far, diplomatic ties have not been restored.

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