Assassination of presidents whose plane was shot down

Major political figures seem to be putting their lives on the line every time they step out of their front door – some having even been killed in front of the world.

Perhaps the most famous, the 35th President of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was shot while part of a presidential motorcade passing through Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas.

Meanwhile, in the UK, we have also seen an assassinated Prime Minister, as Spencer Perceval was killed on his way to the inquiry into the Orders in Council in 1812.

However, they were killed on the ground, while the President of Rwanda and the President of Burundi were flying when they were killed.

Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was also killed in the attack.

On April 6, 1994, the plane carrying Juvénal Habyarimana and Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down by surface-to-air missiles as they prepared to land in Kigali, Rwanda.

All 12 people on board were killed.

The assassination triggered the elimination of Rwandan leaders and sparked the Rwandan Genocide which is considered “one of the bloodiest events of the late 20th century”.

The majority of the victims were from the minority Tutsi ethnic group that resided in Rwanda, with an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 people massacred in 100 days between April and July 1994.

They were led by ethnic Hutu extremists who wanted to eradicate all political opponents, regardless of their ethnic origin.

The plane carrying the Rwandan president shot down
The plane was shot down as it prepared to land in Rwanda

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It is unclear who was responsible for the assassination itself, but most theories point to the Tutsi rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).

However, the RPF blamed the Hutu – claiming they would use the dead to justify mass slaughter.

In 2010, a Rwandan government investigation blamed Hutu extremists in the Rwandan army.

Several investigations were conducted by different countries, but all prosecutions ended in 2020 due to “insufficient evidence”.