PARIS - A French investigation has found that the missile fire which brought down the Rwandan president's plane in 1994 and sparked the country's genocide came from a military camp and not Tutsi rebels, according to a lawyer briefed Tuesday.
Those findings essentially clear several people close to current Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who was the leader of the Tutsi rebels at the time of the assassination. French judges had filed preliminary charges against Kagame's allies and were investigating the incident because a French air crew were killed in the plane crash.
The Rwandan government praised Tuesday's conclusion, which is in line with its own investigation that pointed the finger at Hutu extremists.
Critics of the Rwandan government had questioned that investigation and, for years, some have said the rebel Tutsis who were fighting then-President Juvenal Habyarimana's Hutu-led government shot down his plane.
After the April 1994 crash, militants from the Hutu ethnic majority quickly set up roadblocks across the capital of Kigali. More than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred in 100 days of frenzied killing — slaughter that was stopped when Kagame's Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, toppled the Hutu extremists.
Lawyer Bernard Maingain, who represents seven Rwandans who were under investigation, said the findings "put an end to more than 16 years of manipulation and lies."
His comments were echoed by the Rwandan government.
"Today's findings constitute vindication for Rwanda's long-held position on the circumstances surrounding events of April 1994," Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement. "It is now clear to all that the downing of the plane was a coup d'etat carried (out) by extremist Hutu elements and their advisers."
The French investigation has at times created a rift between France and Rwanda. The delivery in 2006 of arrest warrants for people close to Kagame by a now-retired French anti-terrorism magistrate led to a break in diplomatic ties between France and Rwanda — re-established only in 2009.