Plane Carrying Rwanda President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira is Shot Down

April 6, 2022

On the evening of April 6, 1994, the Rwanda president was killed. President Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira were preparing to land in Kigali in a Dassault Falcon 50 jet when it was shot down with surface-to-air missiles. Both leaders were returning from a conference on ending ethnic skirmishes in Burundi, in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.

The presidential aircraft girdled above Kigali International Airport before coming in for final approach in clear skies to land around 8:20 pm local time. A flight carrying UNAMIR troops coming back from leave was scheduled to land minutes before the presidential jet, but it was held off to prioritize the president.

The first surface-to-air missile struck the aircraft’s wing, and the second missile hit its tail. The plane carrying nine passengers and three French crew burst into flames mid-air and crashed right into the presidential palace garden.

Within hours of the attack, this assassination triggered a frenzy of killing, initiating two of the bloodiest ethnic events of the late 20th century— the Rwandan genocide and the First Congo War. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed.

Responsibility for who caused the attack is still unresolved. Most theories suggest the ethnic clashes were prompted by Hutu- aligned power extremists opposed to the peace negotiations with the Rwandan Patriotic Front. Others believe the actions came from the Tutsi rebels (RPF) led by the current president Paul Kagame.

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