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Kagame threatens 'showdown" with France over assassination probe

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame AFP

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has threatened a "showdown" with France after French investigators said they would reopen a probe into the 1994 assassination of president Juvenal Habyarimana that triggered the genocide of the country's Tutsis.


The shooting-down of Habyarimana's plane, in which Burundian President Cyprian Ntaryamira and the French crew also died, sparked the massacres that claimed 800,000 lives, most of them Tutsi, leading eventually to Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) coming to power.

The row over who was responsible has led to diplomatic ties being cut of between 2006 and 2009.

French investigators announced last week that they would be reopening the case so as to hear the evidence of former Rwandan army chief Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, a former Kagame ally who fell out with the president and now lives in South Africa, where he has survived at least two attempts on his life.

A Rwandan commission of inquiry blamed Hutu hardliners for the murders.

Having failed to reach a conclusion, French investigators dropped the case in January but now want to start again after a new depostion by Nyamwasa accusing seven of the Rwandan president's associates.

Kagame threatens France

In an angry speech to the Rwandan parliament on Monday, the Kagame declared that Rwanda and its judicial system "is not subordinate to France and France's interests".

"It is France that should be in the dock being tried, not anybody in Rwanda and not Rwandans," he said. "If starting all over again is a showdown we will have a showdown, there is no problem about that."

Speaking to RFI at the weekend, the French lawyer representing the seven, Léon Lef Forster, called the latest moves a "crude manoeuvre", designed to "destabilise President Kagame".

Kigali has accused Paris of complicity in the genocide and being reluctant to prosecute instigators who have fled to France.

To read our reports of Rwanda's commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the genocide click here