Agathe Kanziga Habyarimana was born in 1942 in Karago in Gisenyi prefecture, current Western Province, in Rwanda. Agathe Habyarimana, born Kanziga, was never a famous figure until the 1990s. As a former teacher, she was rather quiet and has evolved in the shadow of her husband, content to do anything purely ceremonial.
According to several sources, it was during the civil war between 1990 and 1994, when she has played an important role in the state affairs through Akazu, the circle limited to the unofficial powers composed of civilians and soldiers very close to Juvenal Habyarimana. It was in this circle, a hideout of extremists opposed to any negotiations with the rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), genocide was conceived, developed and implemented.
The Rwandan genocide took place from 6 April to 4 July 1994. The UN estimates that some 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed during these three months.
On 6 April 1994 during landing in Kigali, the Falcon carrying Juvenal Habyarimana, President of the Republic of Rwanda since 5 July 1973 to 6 April 1994, was shot down by surface to air missiles. Cyprien Ntaryamira, the then Head of State and the Burundian President, who was also present in the plane, died instantly. This event is generally regarded as the trigger of the Rwandan genocide.
On 9 April 1994, Agathe Habyarimana was evacuated to Paris by French soldiers during Operation Amaryllis which lasted from 8 to 14 April 1994. After a long layover in Bangui, she arrived in Paris on 17 April 1994. She spent one week at a hotel before going to occupy a family apartment, on avenue Mozart in the 16th district.
At that time she was received by officials of the French Foreign Ministry, and her safety was ensured by the French police. The first stay in France was short-lived. In September, she moved to Libreville, Gabon, at the invitation of Omar Bongo Ondimba, and then Gbadolite in Zaire, where Mobutu held the funeral of her husband. Equipped with a diplomatic passport issued by Zairians, she went to Kenya.
Agathe Habyarimana went back to Zaire in late 1995, fearing the “threat of the RPF.” In April 1997, shortly before the fall of Mobutu, she settled in Gabon, where she was granted a diplomatic passport under a false name. In response to new threats from the RPF, according to the person concerned, she left Libreville and smuggled into France where she currently resides with illegal status.
Her asylum application, filed in January 2004, was rejected by the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) on 4 January 2007.
After thirteen years of residence in France, her appeal was rejected on 15 February 2007 by the Refugee Appeals Commission (CRR, which has become the National Court of asylum), which emphasised her alleged role in the Rwandan genocide of 1994. For the CRR, there were serious reasons for considering that she should have participated “as instigator or accomplice” to the “crime of genocide” according to the words used in the decision. She was therefore ineligible for the protection under the Geneva Convention and subsidiary protection. CRR also believed that her statements, “incredible, […] must be regarded as reflecting her desire to conceal the activities that were actually her own during the period of preparation, planning and execution of the genocide.”
This decision was confirmed on 16 October 2009 by the Council of State. The authority rejected her appeal, estimating that there were “serious reasons for considering” that she could be involved “as instigator or accomplice” in the crime of genocide”. From that decision she could be deported, although this would be unlikely.
Agathe Habyarimana is frequently presented as a prominent member of the Akazu, the first circle of Hutu power that planned and implemented the genocide. Her brother, Protais Zigiranyirazo, nicknamed “Mr. Z”, governor of Ruhengeri, was presented by the prosecution of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda as the main figure of the presidential circle who planned the genocide. He was convicted at first instance to 20 years in prison, and acquitted on appeal, the sentence having been annulled on procedural grounds.
In October 2009, Rwanda issued an international arrest warrant against Agathe Habyarimana for participation and incitement to genocide.