News / Africa

Rwanda Seeks Extradition of Former First Lady

Agathe Kanzinga, widow of former Rwandan leader Juvenal Habyarimana (1977 photo)
Agathe Kanzinga, widow of former Rwandan leader Juvenal Habyarimana (1977 photo)
Alan Boswell

Rwanda is seeking the extradition of a former first lady who was arrested by French authorities Tuesday on genocide-related charges. France is reaching out to Rwanda after years of cold relations, which have stemmed from allegations that France was closely linked with the genocide perpetrators.

France has detained Agathe Habyarimana, the widow of the former Rwandan leader whose death in 1994 set off the ethnic slaughter which killed 800,000 in just 100 days.

Her accusers paint Habyarimana as a powerful behind-the-scenes figure and a central leader within the circle of Hutu radicals responsible for planning the massacre. A recent report commissioned by the current Rwandan government suggests that she may have been involved in the plot to kill her husband, who at the time of his death had just signed a controversial power-sharing deal with a Tutsi rebel force.

She and her family have always denied involvement in the mass killings.

Rwandan Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo praised the arrest by French authorities, who were acting on an international warrant issued by Rwanda.

"We welcome the move," said Louise Mushikiwabo. "We think that justice delayed is justice denied, and a number of people in Rwanda have been waiting to hear what happens with Habyarimana's widow. The people who know her in Rwanda from back then testify that she was quite involved in the preparation of the genocide."

The Rwandan official says that her country will push for the suspect to be sent back to Rwanda for trial, but also suggested that whether Habyarimana faces charges is more important than where the trial would take place.

"Ideally she should be extradited to Rwanda to face justice where the crime was committed, there is no question about it," said Mushikiwabo."That is what we are demanding. But for her, as for many other people that are implicated in this genocide, we want first and foremost justice. The important thing is that there is justice somewhere, especially because this is a crime that is not just against Rwandans but against humanity."

The French, who were close allies with Juvenal Habyarimana's regime, reportedly flew the late leader's widow out of the country as events spiraled out of control following her husband's assassination.

She has sought political asylum in France, where she has resided for a number of years, but her request has never been granted.

The sudden move to act on the arrest warrant is seen as part of a broader diplomatic gesture from France that it is serious about improving its battered ties with the tiny central African nation. Rwandan President Paul Kagame once led the Tutsi rebel force that eventually ended the genocide, and his allies have accused France of arming the Hutu militias who carried out the Tutsi extermination campaign.

France has always rebuffed claims that it was directly linked to the mass killings. But in a short trip to Kigali last week, which included a visit to a genocide memorial, French President Nicolas Sarkozy made the strongest statement of French regret yet, admitting "mistakes" were made, as well as "errors of judgment" and "errors of politics."

President Kagame cut off diplomatic relations with the European nation in 2006 after a French judge accused him and nine of his aides of shooting down President Habyarimana's plane. Official ties were restored in November.

The French in January also arrested a Hutu physician who is suspected to have led the murder of Tutsi in his village.

You May Like

Multimedia Brussels Schools, Metro Reopen Under Heavy Guard

City remains under the highest threat alert level due to what authorities have described as a 'serious and imminent' threat of attack

Video Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

Americans Think About Strange Stuff at Thanksgiving

Millions of Americans are celebrating Thanksgiving, but they’re not necessarily thinking about turkey and stuffing

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs