"If I die, it will be my day. And remember that no one can escape his destiny," the late Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana said on the evening of April 05, 1994, the eve of his assassination. President Habyarimana made the prediction at his residence in Kanombe, when walking out some of the guests he had entertained that evening. Among the guests were Mrs. Gaudence Habimana Nyirasafari and her husband, Phocas Habimana.
Mrs. Gaudence Nyirasafari was one of the prominent Rwandan politicians and perhaps the highest ranking and most recognizable woman in the Rwandan politics, over more than 2 decades. She is also known as the first Rwandan woman to have obtained the most advanced university degree, that she earned from a Belgian university in early 1960s. Known for her integrity, she was well admired by Rwandan intellectuals and common people and trusted by Western diplomats in Rwanda and by governments around the World, especially the United States.
With the support from the United States government, she was entrusted with the most important program funded by the Unites States, Family
Planning, managed by the National Office of the Population (ONAPO). She was also one of the members of the Central Committee of the ruling party, MRND. Hence, it was not by accident that she was among the last few people that President Habyarimana received at his residence on the eve of his fateful trip to Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, to sign what has since been known as the Arusha Peace Accords. It is when he was returning from the Peace conference that President Habyarimana was assassinated by, what most believe, the military leaders of the current ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (see here).
Recalling her last meeting with President Habyarimana, Gaudence Habimana Nyirasafari gave the following testimony, included in the book published by Ms. Jeanne Habyarimana, the eldest daughter of President Juvenal Habyarimana, under the titled in French "Mon père, cette autre partie de moi qu’on m’a arrachée. Hommage à Juvénal Habyarimana [NDLR: My Father, the other part of me they ripped off. A Tribute to Juvenal Habyarimana] in the chapter "The final meeting by Gaudentia Nyirasafari" (“L’entretien ultime par Gaudentia Nyirasafari”):
"On 5 April 1994 to 15h, the phone rang at my home. An acquaintance, a Tutsi childhood friend of my husband, called from Bujumbura (the capital of Burundi) with a voice full of concern.
I gave him my husband, and frankly, he told my husband, "the RPF believes that there is no way for us Tutsis, to take power in Rwanda as long as President Habyarimana is at the helm of the country; he is still very popular; no Tutsi could beat him in fair elections. Hence, our leaders have decided to physically eliminate him. The decision was made in a meeting held in Burkina Faso, by the commanders of Inkotanyi (NDLR: RPF). Since Habyarimana plans to go to Dar es Salaam tomorrow, it will be a good opportunity ... Please make sure to let him know of the danger, right away. I am an Inkotanyi, but I have liked Habyarimana since we met in college. He is a great man (Ni umugabo pe!) [NDLR: in Rwandan langage]."
After the phone call from RPF leader to the Gaudence Nyirasafari and her husband, Phocas Habimana, they rushed to President Juvenal Habyarimana's residence. This is how Gaudence continues her testimony:
"We immediately asked to meet with the President [ NDLR: Habyarimana] at his residence in Kanombe, as a matter of urgency. He received us the same day at 6:00 PM. Upon our arrival, we shared with the President the information we had received from our friend in Burundi. We tried and implored him to change his travel plan and to, instead, send one of his most trusted Minister to Dar es Salaam, for the signature of the Arusha Peace Agreement. We again stressed how dangerous the trip was. He replied: "Others, before you, have warned against travelling to Dar-es-Salaam, especially my brother President Mobutu, who a few moments ago just called me about this for the umpteenth time today."
He reminded us that this is a peace conference, that in no way, he can not excuse himself from his imperative duty, and that peace is his reason for being. He added: "If I die, it will be my day and remember that no one can escape his destiny, (ntawe Urenga nyamusi: (NDLR: in Rwandan langage)". He stressed that last sentence.
We said goodbye to the First Lady, Mrs Agathes Habyarimana. When we bid goodbye to the President, he simply responded: "Goodbye Phocas; thank you for your honesty and frankness. I only regret of not having been able to see you more often, but we will remedy that later "; "Goodbye Madame, remind me when I return from Tanzania to continue the important discussion on governance."
I said: "See you, Mr. President," making a huge effort not to show my deep sadness and not to say:"Adieu". I then thought of the words that my mother often told us, "Whatever happens, keep smiling and keep your dignity." That was the case this time. "
It appears that the next time Gaudence Nyirasafari and her husband Phocas Habimana heard of Habyarimana, was when they learned of his assassination, along with Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira and Rwandan and Burundian president aides and high ranking officers and a French flight crew. In a recent testimony by the Rwandan Patriotic Front Chief of Staff, the assassination was planned and executed by the current Rwandan President, General Paul Kagame.
Phocas Habimana, Gaudence Nyirasafari along with their family and relatives returned to Rwanda from a refugee camp in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Phocas Habimana was arrested and thrown in jail by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, without changes. After years in jail, terminally ill from long deprivations and constant mistreatment and tortures, he was released and died a few days later. Gaudence Nyirasafari was given asylum in a European country.
Gaudence Nyirasafari's testimony confirms multiple accounts over the years, pointing to the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana by the Rwandan Patriotic Front commanders. Some accounts were given by witnesses who were top leaders of the Rwandan Patriotic Front.