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French investigators initially accused allies of the current president of a killing that touched of the mass slaughter of the ethnic Tutsi minority.
A French judicial investigation has effectively cleared Rwanda's current president of involvement in the assassination that sparked the 1994 genocide, according to the Associated Press.
The genocide began in April of that year moments after the plane carrying the Hutu-supremacist leader Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down. Up to a million members of the country's Tutsi minority were targeted and slaughtered over the following 100 days as the world stood by and watched.
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Rwanda's current president, Paul Kagame, rose to power after leading a largely Tutsi armed intervention. Family members of the French crew operating the plane opened a judicial investigation in which people close to Kagame were charged with the bringing down the plane in an attempt to touch off the slaughter in an alleged attempt to gain a military advantage.
The allegations threatened to paint Rwanda's current leader, who gained fame for helping end the genocide, as one of those responsible for unleashing it. The investigation was another sore point in Rwanda's relations with France, which the African country accused of complicity in the genocide.
However French judicial investigators have determined that the missile which struck down the plane nearly 18 years ago was fired from a military camp and not by Tutsi rebels, according to the AP.
The results "put an end to more than 16 years of manipulation and lies," Bernard Maingain, an attorney representing the Rwandan suspects who have been exonerated, was quoted as saying.
"Today's findings constitute vindication for Rwanda's long-held position on the circumstances surrounding events of April 1994," Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in a statement, according to the AP. "It is now clear to all that the downing of the plane was a coup d'etat carried (out) by extremist Hutu elements and their advisers."
According to the Agence France-Presse, the investigation progressed after the retirement of Jean-Louis Bruguière, the first anti-terrorism judge first assigned to the case. Amid a "thaw" in relations, a new judge was able to send a team of experts who found the location from which the missile was fired.