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France should accept mistakes in Rwanda

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th August 2008 03:00 AM

An independent Rwandan commission set up to investigate France’s role in the 1994 genocide has implicated top French political and military officials in the bloodbath.

An independent Rwandan commission set up to investigate France’s role in the 1994 genocide has implicated top French political and military officials in the bloodbath.

The accusations are not new. There has been a tit-for-tat game between Kigali and Paris for a long time. What makes the latest slap from Kigali different is that it followed a comprehensive inquiry.

Both Kigali and Paris deny accusations against each other. However, France has a few issues to clear. Even before 1994, France had warm relations with the Hutu regime that carried out the genocide, and helped to blunt the first rebel attack in 1990. The training and arming of Hutu militia took place in 1990-94 when France had military pacts with Kigali.

Under a UN mandate, France intervened in Rwanda and set up a “safe zone” when the Hutu regime was at the brink of defeat and retreat.

Although the objectives of “Operation Turquoise” was to protect civilians, French bias towards the Hutus was that the operation did not disarm them. Extremist Hutu militia who were still armed operated in the vast zone freely; there were roadblocks and checkpoints along the way; and Tutsis left alive, and even Hutus without IDs, were killed.

When the Hutu regime moved the transmitter for the notorious Radio des Mille-Collines into the zone, the French did not seize it. Nor did they detain those government officials that they knew had helped coordinate the genocide.

The victims allege that French soldiers helped Interahamwe militias in finding their victims, and themselves carried out atrocities. Thus some say “Operation Turquoise” was aimed only at protecting genocide perpetrators.

The best France can do is to first admit that the genocide continued even within the “safe zone”. It would then investigate the individual soldiers and politicians involved and forward them to the appropriate international court. Short of this, the whole government stands guilty of complicity of genocide, at least in the court of public opinion.

France should accept mistakes in Rwanda

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