France bears the burden of ‘heavy and damning responsibilities’ in the Rwandan genocide, but was not complicit in the slaughter. That’s according to the findings of an official commission set up by President Emmanuel Macron.
The report, released on Friday, confirmed long and persistent accusations that France did not do enough to halt the killings.
Legalbrief reports that France’s relationship with its former African colonies has been in the spotlight over the past month with Macron acknowledging that a prominent Algerian nationalist was tortured and murdered by its army more than 60 years ago. And looters hit a French retailer in Senegal’s capital Dakar after days of clashes between opposition supporters and the police.
Rwanda’s foreign ministry said the results from the country’s own investigation commissioned in 2017 would be released soon ‘to complement and enrich this latest report’.
The commission concluded that there had been a ‘failure’ on the part of France under former leader Francois Mitterrand which resulted in about 800 000 people being slaughtered. The genocide between April and July 1994 began after Rwanda’s Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana, with whom Paris had cultivated close ties, was killed when his plane was shot down over Kigali on 6 April.
The Guardian reports that French troops led a military-humanitarian intervention called Operation Turquoise, launched by Paris under a UN mandate between June and August 1994, but critics have said it was intended to support the Hutu Government responsible for the genocide, a claim the report confirms.
‘ But is France complicit in the genocide of the Tutsis? If this means a willingness to be associated with the genocidal enterprise, nothing in the archives consulted proves it,’ it states. The commission found that ‘for a long time’ France was involved with a regime ‘that encouraged racist massacres’.
The 1,200-page report was presented to Macron by the historian Vincent Duclert, who headed of the 15-person commission. Researchers worked on the report for two years and had access to sensitive diplomatic and military intelligence documents.
Rwanda’s Government hailed the release of the report as ‘an important step toward a common understanding of France’s role in the genocide’ and said it would be publishing its own study in the coming weeks. Full report in The Guardian
Journalist and author Andrew Wallis told Al Jazeera the report was ‘explosive’.
‘ The one thing that stood out for me was the fact they’re saying French intelligence knew it was Hutu extremists that shot President Habyarimana’s plane down, which was seen as the trigger for the genocide,’ Wallis said.
The News reports that he noted that a previous French judge’s report had denied that and put the blame on President Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party, ‘and this misinformation has done the rounds for 27 years’. He added that ‘it was in their archives that they knew this in fact was untrue’.
A statement from the French Presidency said Macron welcomed the report as marking ‘considerable progress in the understanding and description of France’s involvement in Rwanda’. Officials in Macron’s office said the inquiry was not just about improving relations with Rwanda but with the whole African continent, since other countries also have questions about what France did at the time. Full report on The News site
Rwandans visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial have had mixed reaction to the findings. ‘There is nothing that the French can do to pay back for what they did, but maybe they could do something for the victims and the survivors who are still suffering from the effects of the genocide to help them improve their lives,’ said Jean Dushimimana.
Africa News reports that Paul Habumugisha said ‘they (France) ignored what they did to participate in the genocide, but now if they accept it, it means that France is going to be our friend’. MP John Ruku-Rwabyoma, who represents the RPF described it as ‘a positive move in the right direction’. Full report on the Africa News site
Meanwhile, the Rwandan High Court says it will continue with the terrorism trial of a man portrayed as a hero in a 2004 Hollywood movie about the genocide.
Paul Rusesabagina says he will not appear in court again as he did not expect justice. BBC News reports that a judge said the trial would continue even if Rusesabagina ‘would not appear without valid reasons’.
Rusesabagina and 20 others are accused of terror charges related to deadly attacks in Rwanda in 2018 and 2019 by the FLN, the armed wing of the Rwandan Movement for Democratic Change.
Legalbrief reports that Rusesabagina has admitted to backing and ‘diplomatically’ supporting the group. A fierce critic of President Paul Kagame, Rusesabagina says he was abducted in Dubai in August and transferred to Rwanda.
An account of Rusesabagina’s actions during the genocide was dramatised in the film Hotel Rwanda , in which he was portrayed by American actor Don Cheadle. The film has been the subject both of critical acclaim and deep controversy. Full BBC News report