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Last Updated: Tuesday, 6 April, 2004, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Rwanda marks genocide anniversary
Genocide memorial site guardian with skulls
The government wants to dignify the memory of those killed
Rwanda is marking the 10th anniversary of the 1994 genocide.

The slaughter was triggered by the shooting down of a plane with Rwanda's Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana onboard on 6 April 1994.

Along with the Jewish Holocaust, it is one of the worst atrocities of the last century.

Ahead of ceremonies to mark the event, the former UN commander in Rwanda said Western states were "criminally responsible" for the genocide.

There is no country today which can wash its hands of Rwandan blood just by saying sorry
Romeo Dallaire
Head of UN peacekeepers in 1994
Canadian General Romeo Dallaire said France, which led the small international peacekeeping force at the time of the genocide, the UK and the US in particular did not care enough to stop the killing.

"It's up to Rwanda not to let others forget they are criminally responsible for the genocide," he told a genocide conference in Kigali on his first visit to the country since 1994.

"There is no country today... which can wash its hands of Rwandan blood just by saying sorry."

French training

General Dallaire's comments came after Rwandan President Paul Kagame accused France of helping prepare the genocide.

6 April: Rwandan Hutu President Habyarimana killed when plane shot down
April -July: An estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus killed
July: Tutsi-led rebel movement RPF captures Rwanda's capital Kigali
July: Two million Hutus flee to Zaire, now the DRC

President Kagame told the BBC that the French trained the militia to kill, knowing they intended to kill.

The BBC's Mark Doyle says that France was the closest ally of the Hutu regime in 1994. It is well known that French military advisers worked with the Hutu government army right up to the beginning of the genocide.

France denies involvement in the mass killings.

The plane carrying President Habyarimana and his Burundi counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira was coming in to land in the capital, Kigali, when one or possibly two rockets fired from the ground destroyed it, killing both men.

By an extraordinary coincidence the wreckage landed in the garden of the presidential residence.

'Well executed plan'

The crash served as a signal to Hutu extremists, supporters of the government, to start the systematic liquidation of minority ethnic Tutsis and any Hutu opponents of the regime.

Mark Doyle says this was not some chaotic African tribal war, as portrayed by Western governments at the time, but a well-executed political plan.

Paul Kagame
Kagame said the French had genocide blood on their hands
At the time, the West conspired to ignore the clear evidence of genocide and refused to help General Dallaire's force as it tried to stop the massacres.

The killing continued for 100 days before a Tutsi-dominated rebel army seized control.

A fierce controversy has since arisen about who shot the plane down.

A French government investigation leaked to the press says that the then Tutsi rebels, led by Mr Kagame, fired the rockets.

President Kagame said that this was a ridiculous allegation designed by Paris to detract from French connivance with the Hutu extremists.

On Tuesday the government said it would accept an independent investigation into the incident.

Deputy Prosecutor-General Martin Ngoga said, however, that the continuing investigation into the genocide itself should take priority over this.

The BBC's Hilary Andersson
"It was one of the most bewildering events of the century"

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