Just hours after her arrest in France, Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana, widow of former president Juvénal Habyarimana was released on bail. Her arrest on an international warrant, issued by the Rwandan government came barely a week after French President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Rwanda, in the first visit by a French president in over a quarter decade. While questions linger why it took the French authorities such a long time to apprehend her, Rwanda’s foreign affairs minister and government spokesperson Louise Mushikiwabo hailed the move, “the reaction of the Rwandan government is of course welcoming that move, we believe justice denied is justice delayed.
Mrs. Habyarimana, a wanted genocide fugitive has been living in France, where she ran, to three days after her husband’s plane was brought down on April 4 triggering the 1994 genocide that left over 800 000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead in 100 days. The Kigali government accuses her of being one of the brains behind the genocide and of being more hard-line than her assassinated husband, also in the circle of influential members of the then government commonly referred to as Akazu. “A number of people in Rwanda have been waiting to hear what happens to Habyarimana’s widow, so for my government and the people of Rwanda, it is an important day where we are starting to see very serious signs of justice, for the genocide survivors of course,” emphasizes Minister Mushikiwabo.
She is confident that Mrs. Habyarimana will be extradited to Rwanda to face justice, but says the government is open to any other idea as long as it brings justice, “Ideally she should be extradited to Rwanda to face justice where the crime was committed, there is no question about it and that is what we are demanding.” She adds, “But just like many other people who are implicated in this genocide, we want first and foremost justice-whether it is carried out in Rwanda or countries of residence of the fugitives, the important thing is that there is justice somewhere.” However her justice counterpart Tharcisse Karugarama was a bit wary of the development when the news of Mrs. Habyarimana’s arrest broke out Tuesday afternoon. He cautioned against expecting too much saying, “It is a good sign that the French judicial authorities are finally responding to our requests but there should not be any excitement about it, it is a judicial process that is just starting to take its course and we will not know how it will end we should just wait and see.”
News of Mrs. Habyarimana’s arrest was received with wide spread gratitude in Kigali with Theodore Simburadari who heads the umbrella association of Genocide survivors in Rwanda-IBUKA saying, what France needs to do now is ensure justice is meted out. “We now hope that the French government is not going to do what it has been doing in the past, where it arrests people who committed genocide against the Tutsis and then releases them after a few hours or days.” He further adds, “The role played by Agathe Kanziga in planning the genocide against the Tutsis is well known as it was written by those who knew the inner click or Akazu very well…they have a track record in planning the genocide against the Tutsis.”
During his three hour visit to Rwanda last Thursday, President Sarkozy admitted to mistakes by French officials in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide and promised to pursue fugitives. “I want to tell people that all the people responsible will be found and punished there is nothing else I can tell you and President Kagame understands. We want to refuse all political interferences apart from those involved. There is a judicial process in place.” Rwanda and France restored their severed relations in November last year after three years of diplomatic freeze. Mrs. Habyarimana’s formerly convicted brother Protais Zigiranyirazo’s was released by the UN backed International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in November 2009. The judges at the Arusha based tribunal cited serious errors committed during 2008 conviction and sentencing, as the reason behind their decision to overturn Zigiranyirazo’s 20 years sentence.
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