In Kigali, four dead and twenty-seven years of doubts

By Pierre Lepidi

Posted today at 00:35

On the evening of Wednesday April 13, 1994, a C-130 of the French army landed on the tarmac at Bangui airport, in the Central African Republic. This plane from Rwanda is carrying the bodies of two French gendarmes specializing in radio transmissions, René Maier and Alain Didot, as well as that of Gilda, the latter’s wife. After their death in obscure circumstances, they were found buried in the garden of the house occupied by the Didot couple in Kigali, then put in beer by French soldiers at the airport in the Rwandan capital. Who killed them, and why? Twenty-seven years later, a veil of mystery still surrounds this affair. One question, in particular, remains unanswered: is there a link between this quadruple homicide and the attack, committed on April 6, 1994, against the plane of the Rwandan president, Juvénal Habyarimana, an event that triggered the genocide of Tutsi?

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To try to find out, we must first go back to Friday April 15 and repatriation in France mortal remains. In an icy hangar at Le Bourget airport, a military tribute is paid to the French, as well as to the three crew members (Jacky Héraud, Jean-Pierre Minaberry, Jean-Michel Perrine) who died eight days earlier in the attack on the Presidential Falcon. In front of the relatives of the deceased, the Minister of Cooperation, Michel Roussin, hangs the Legion of Honor on the six coffins covered with the tricolor. In his speech, he quotes Chateaubriand: “The living cannot teach the dead anything. The dead, on the contrary, instruct the living. “

At the wheel of a UN Jeep, the blue helmet Jean Thiry arrives at Kigali airport on April 13, 1994. In his trailer are the bodies of René Maier and Alain and Gilda Didot.
At Kigali airport, on April 13, 1994, the bodies of René Maier and Alain and Gilda Didot were put in beer.

But, at this point, the story remains opaque. “Alain Didot distinguished himself by accomplishing his difficult and trying mission, during which he was taken hostage at his home and shot dead by uncontrolled elements”, says an army spokesperson in his eulogy. A scenario of the drama, taken up by the French authorities, nevertheless emerges. It is based in part on the testimony of five people who took refuge with the Didots, then at the Hôtel Méridien. According to this scenario, those responsible for the killings would be soldiers from the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a politico-military movement made up mainly of Tutsi from Uganda, at war with the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR), supported by France. Once in the house, the RPF soldiers reportedly took the refugees out, then shot the three Frenchmen and their Rwandan guard, Jean-Damascène Murasira.

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In Kigali, four dead and twenty-seven years of doubts