Genocide in Rwanda: France’s “overwhelming responsibilities”

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PARIS | France “remained blind to the preparation” for the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda in 1994 and bears “heavy and overwhelming responsibilities” in the tragedy, according to the conclusions of a report by a commission of historians published on Friday.

This eagerly awaited report, submitted to President Emmanuel Macron, points in its conclusions to “the bankruptcy of France in Rwanda” between 1990 and 1994, and its “blindness” in the face of the genocidal drift of the “racist, corrupt and violent” regime of the president. Hutu Juvénal Habyarimana. And this, “in spite of the alerts launched from Kigali, Kampala or Paris”, specify the conclusions of the report.

He stresses, however, that “nothing has come to demonstrate” that Paris was “an accomplice” in the genocide which left at least 800,000 dead according to the UN between April and July 1994.

The document consulted by AFP before its official publication insists on the crucial responsibility of the then socialist president, François Mitterrand, in this policy.

“This alignment with Rwandan power is the result of a will on the part of the Head of State and the Presidency of the Republic”, write the fourteen historians of the Commission, who sifted through tens of thousands of French archives for two years. François Mitterrand maintained “a strong, personal and direct relationship” with Juvénal Habyarimana, they emphasize.

This relationship, coupled with “an ethnicist reading grid” of the situation in Rwanda, justified “the delivery of considerable quantities of arms and ammunition to the Habyarimana regime, as well as the very great involvement of the French soldiers in the training of the Rwandan armed forces ”government.

The report also denounces “the existence of irregular administrative practices, parallel chains of communication and even command, circumvention of legal procedures, acts of intimidation” in the implementation of a policy which was essentially decided at the Elysee Palace and in the circle close to Mr. Mitterrand.

At the time of the genocide, France “was slow to break” with those responsible, and continued to place the threat of the RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front, the former Tutsi rebellion which put an end to the genocide) at the top of its concerns “, write historians. “She reacted late” with the military-humanitarian operation Turquoise between June and August 1994, “which saved many lives, but not those of the vast majority of Tutsi in Rwanda who were exterminated in the first weeks of the genocide” , they add.

Even if relations between Paris and Kigali have relaxed with the coming to power of Emmanuel Macron in 2017, the role of France in Rwanda, long accused of “complicity” in genocide by Kigali, has remained an explosive subject for more than 25 years. It is also the subject of a violent and passionate debate between researchers, academics and politicians.

The commission chaired by historian Vincent Duclert was set up in 2019 by Mr. Macron, who distinguished himself by his desire to develop certain sensitive memorial files.