Kigali, April 6, 1994: 27 years later and the real sponsors of the attack are still unknown!

For the 27 years of the massacre of the 10 Belgian paratroopers in Rwanda, we met Colonel Luc Marchal, who gave us the letter he wrote 7 years ago. Since then, nothing has really changed: always the same omerta, the absence of investigations… the same refrain, under which all these affairs of state are stifled(1). There are certain interests in the region, from which multinationals and certain politicians benefit directly, here and there. We publish the excerpts from Colonel Marchal’s letter on these events. 

Indeed! This is the distressing situation we have been reduced to. Since the attack of April 6, 1994, and despite the ever-increasing death toll, it is still not known (officially) who is responsible for this terrorist act that triggered a veritable holocaust in the African Great Lakes region. Yet, during this same period, the UN Security Council twice decided to create an international commission of inquiry to identify those responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005 and Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. On the other hand, for President Habyarimana of Rwanda and President Ntaryamira of Burundi, not to mention President Ndadaye of Burundi who was assassinated six months earlier: NOTHING! As if it were a trivial incident of no importance whatsoever.

Among the countless direct victims of this attack, ten Belgian peacekeepers, in the service of peace, were massacred in particularly savage circumstances 1 . In spite of this context, it is clear that no Belgian political authority has considered it its moral responsibility to lead a fight against the immobility of the international community. That this community feels a legitimate sense of guilt for its culpable inertia during the genocide is one thing, but is it a sufficient reason not to try to understand who is responsible for this dynamic of destruction that has been raging for more than twenty years in this martyred region of Africa? Or is it so overwhelming that everything is done to ensure that the identity of those who pulled the strings behind the scenes is never discovered?

In any case, as far as our ten peacekeepers are concerned, apart from a medal on their coffin and well-deserved tributes, things have not been pushed further. However, the exact reason for their killing has been known since 1994. Indeed, if the soldiers present at the Kigali camp rushed to lynch them, it is because a Rwandan soldier, perfectly identified 2 The reason why the soldiers at the Kigali camp rushed to lynch them was because a Rwandan soldier, who was perfectly identified, had pointed to them as being responsible for the death of President Habyarimana. The attack of April 6, 1994 is therefore the direct cause of the massacre of our soldiers. Since no government has considered it its duty to do everything possible to ensure that justice is done to our martyrs of peace, we can only observe that those truly responsible for their deaths continue to enjoy total impunity. And it is not the sentencing of Major Bernard Ntuyahaga to twenty years of imprisonment by a popular jury in July 2007 that provides any answers to the real questions about the workings of this attack. Nor is it the ICTR 3 which is in its final months of existence 4that will have broken this law of silence. Yet, not only did he have the mandate to investigate a terrorist act 5 but in addition, as early as 1997, Michael Hourigan 6 had already compiled a file showing the direct involvement of Paul Kagame in the attack of April 6, 1994. We know the fate that Louise Harbour, the ICTR prosecutor at the time, reserved for this case. It was definitively classified and considered as never having existed!

Another point that remains unclear is the escort mission carried out by Lieutenant Lotin 7 for the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) on April 6. For some reason, which is still unclear, this escort mission of more than 400 km took place without any authorization being requested by the RPF 8 . What was the real purpose of this mission, which the Belgian parliamentary commission of inquiry into the events in Rwanda somewhat hastily described as« more of a tourist mission than an operational one »? 9 ? Are we really sure that there is no connection between this « tourist escapade » and the attack perpetrated shortly after Lieutenant Lotin’s return? Is the accusation made very quickly that the Belgians were involved in the attack related to the execution of this mission for the RPF or not? Given the tragic end of our men just hours later, can these questions really be left unanswered? This is all the more difficult to understand since the head of the RPF delegation, for whom the escort was provided, has been a refugee in Belgium for many years. In an interview with a daily newspaper, he stated that he had worked out the details of the escort mission directly with Lieutenant Lotin, whom he knew well. How could he know this officer so well, when he had arrived in Kigali only a few days before? What a strange coincidence. While the procedures for escorts were well known to the users (RPF and government forces), it was precisely when the new leader changed, and the new leader did not yet have all his bearings, that the RPF bypassed the rules. Is it really a pure coincidence? The question remains.

The same applies to the one concerning the attack of April 6, 1994. The crux of everything, as the parliamentary commission of inquiry aptly points out in its report 10 : Indeed, if we knew the data related to the assassination of the president, we could give a clearer idea and interpretation of the subsequent events, both in terms of the killing of the peacekeepers and in terms of the genocide. It was indeed the attack on the presidential plane that was the beginning of these later events.

A special fate was reserved for this voluminous report of 736 pages and several kilos of annexes. On December 17, 1997, the Senate considered this report in plenary session and formally approved only its chapter 5. The report makes a series of recommendations. The 52th stipulates 11 : The United Nations must take the lead in conducting an international investigation into the assassinations of the presidents of Burundi and Rwanda in April 1994. However, since the parliamentary committee is not in a position to impose this kind of thing on the Security Council, it nevertheless states in its 55th and final recommendation 12 : lhe commission invites the government to report to the Senate, once a year for the next five years, on the progress that has already been made in implementing these recommendationsWe are still waiting to know the real initiatives taken by successive governments to meet the recommendation concerning the international investigation into the attack of April 6, 1994.

In the name of whom or what did our ten peacekeepers die on April 7, 1994 in Kigali? What motive, in this day and age, can still be considered sufficiently convincing to justify the supreme sacrifice of those who exercise the profession of soldier?


Luc Marchal, former Commander, Kigali-MINUAR Sector

Notes et références
  1. Pour pousser la réflexion sur les responsabilités internationales dans le soutien aux dictatures, la paupérisation du peuple rwandais et la dépendance aux Institutions de Bretton Woods, suscitée volontairement, effets qui ont préparé le génocide, voir:
  2. Douze autres ressortissants belges vivant au Rwanda perdirent également la vie à cette époque, dont certains à cause de leur nationalité.
  3. Adjudant-chef Léonard Sebutiyongera.
  4. Tribunal pénal international pour le Rwanda.
  5. Qui n’existe plus depuis.
  6. Mandat du TPIR article 4, d.
  7. Chef de cellule d’enquête du TPIR à Kigali.
  8. Chef de l’unité belge fournissant la majeure partie des escortes armées au profit des Forces gouvernementales et du FPR.
  9. Seul le commandant du Secteur Kigali avait autorité pour accorder pareille mission au sein de la MINUAR. Aucune demande en ce sens ne lui a été adressée.
  10. Rapport de la commission d’enquête parlementaire concernant les événements du Rwanda p. 402.
  11. Ibidem, p. 400.
  12. Ibidem, p. 731.
  13. Ibidem. p. 731.

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