Paris-based African Journalist Sued by President Paul Kagame

By Ruth Nabakwe

The Perspective

Posted March 14, 2002

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has sued a Paris-based African Journalist-author Charles Onana in a French High Court for defamation following his publication of a book entitled, "Les Secrets Du Génocide Rwandais- Enquête Sur Les Mystères D'un Président" - (The Secrets of the Rwanda Genocide- Investigation on the Mysteries of a President), which points an accusing finger at the Rwandan leader as the principle suspect Number One in the Plane Crash which led to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The Court process slated for 8 April at the 17th Chamber of the French High Court Tribunal which deals with Media-related cases comes at a time when a French anti-terrorist Judge Jean Louis Bruguiere prepares to wind up his investigative dossier on the plane crash following a court case instituted in 1998 by families of French pilots who died in the plane crash.

The new Book published on 10 December was what the author Charles Onana with the collaboration of a Rwandan Journalist Déo Mushayidi describe as the responsibility of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPF) including its Chief Paul Kagame in the Falcon 50 plane crash of late President Juvenal Habyarimana on 6 April 1994.

The late Rwandan leader and his Burundi counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira were travelling back to their respective countries from a peace summit in Dar- es Salaam in April 1994 when they met their deaths when the plane was shot down by a missile attack which the author says was manufactured in Russia.

In the plaint against Onana, President Kagame's advocate Natacha Renaudin acknowledges that investigations on the plane crash undertaken by French judge Bruguire were underway and accuses Onana of not respecting the principle of "presumption of innocence" for President Kagame in the whole affair.

Two separate entities namely the Rwandan State and President Kagame sue the author with the Rwandan State represented by its Justice Minister Jean De Dieu Mucyo, while kagame demands that the French Justice System condemns the author to pay one symbolic Euro to the Rwandan State for prejudice suffered as a result of the defamation.

Other demands by Kagame include that the accused publishes all or part of the judgment to be delivered in a French or Foreign Media, which must cost an equivalent of 10,000 Euros.

President Kagame also demands that the French High Court order the accused to pay 5000 Euros for each of his new book found in bookstores after the judgment has been delivered.

The author would be represented during the trial by Togolese advocate Eric Sossah. Sossah was among advocates who in 1999 represented the Comorian State against French legendary mercernary Bob Denard during a court process in Paris instituted by the Comorian State concerning the assassination of late Comorian President Ahmed Abdallah.

In a interview Monday Onana described the case launched against him by President Kagame as, "an attempt to stifle the truth," concerning the whole affair of the plane crash in which he ( Kagame)was a principle suspect.

The author also saw the upcoming court case as an attempt to censor the liberty of investigative journalists to bring out the truth on the root causes of pertinent issues affecting African societies today.

"This court process is proof of President Kagame's refusal to confront the truth about the assassination of his predecessor the late Juvenal Habyarimana because seven years after the plane crash he (Kagame) has never demonstrated a keen desire to launch investigations on the matter yet International Law obliges States to carry out investigations on any kind of plane crash within their territories," Onana observed.

Instead of focusing attention on such investigations in order to bring the whole truth to light concerning the plane crash Onana charged that President Kagame preferred to "attack in court" journalists who have dared to bring out the results of their three years of investigations on the plane crash into the public domain.

For Onana the court process would "de-robe Kagame of the mask" he has for seven years attempted to cover over the entire international community on the Rwandan genocide.

According to Onana the ongoing court process at the International Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania in which hundreds of largely Rwandan Hutus are presently being judged for allegedly masterminding the Rwandan genocide could not be better carried out without first finding those who shot down the Plane of late President Juvenal Habyarimana., "yet it was this macabre event which provoked the Rwandan 1994 genocide for which those being accused at Arusha are being condemned," he added.

Onana who also doubles up as President of the Paris-base Pan African Organization of Independent Journalists has written previous publications which include a Biography on late Central Africa Republic Emperor Jean Bedel Bokassa written in 1998 entitled, "Ascension et Chute D'un Empereur" ( The Rise and Fall of an Emperor of the Duboirris Edition.

Other titles written by Onana include, "L'Assassinat de Robert Zongo, Crime d'Etat Contre un Journalist" - ( Assasination of Norbert Zongo, State Crime Against a Journalist) of MINSI Edition 1999 which details the killing of Zongo, the Burkinabe Journalist.

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