Rwanda this week launched the report of its commission of inquiry into the role of France in the 1994 genocide, in which up to one million people were killed. The report accuses former French President Francois Mitterand, his son and adviser Jean-Christophe, as well as the then French prime minister
The 500-page report accuses the French Government of supporting the administration of President Habyarimana in the preparation and commission of the genocide. It also argues that France had a hand in the destabilisation of Rwanda by arming genocidaires based in the former Zaire.
Prior knowledge of genocide
France knew that preparations of mass massacres were in place, the commission argues. â€œBetween October 1990 and April 1994 French army officers were present in all security organs of the country. From 1991 until at least December 1993, there was a high number of French military advisors in the national army (FAR), gendarmerie (Police), intelligence and other special organs, including the Presidential guard.â€
According to the report, French military advisors took charge of high-level meetings where war strategies were being planned, and the French military commanded the war at the front line.
â€œAs stated by Gen. Dallaire (head of the UN peacekeeping mission), since there was evidence of French military involvement with the national army immediately before the genocide, it logically follows that the French had adequate information that a major massacre was being planned.â€
The French Government helped Habyarimana's regime in providing the ideological base for the genocide, the commission established. In their communication, it argues, the French portrayed the Rwandan issue as purely ethnic, an issue between the majority Hutu and a minority group of Tutsi.
It quotes President Mitterand as having told his cabinet on June 22, 1994: â€œRwanda, like Burundi, is numerically dominated by Hutus. In that sense, it is common knowledge that most of the population is behind President Habyarimana. Should the country be ruled by the minority Tutsi, who are now based in Uganda where most wish to establish a "Tutsi land" including not only Uganda, but also Rwanda and Burundi, certainly the track of democracy shall be interrupted".
Support to FAR
France, the report says, trained, organised and armed the former national army, FAR, which helped carry out the genocide. â€œFrance also actively participated in the war and several times fought side by side with the Rwandan National Army.â€
In addition, according to the report, the French army manned road blocks in Kigali and different parts of the country where they checked individual identity cards on ethnicity. â€œSome of those who were identified as Tutsi were killed and tortured in the presence of members of the French army, who also participated in those acts of murder and tortureâ€, it says.
Training of Interahamwe
The report accuses France of not only training the national army but also the Interahamwe militias, vagabonds who were largely responsible for carrying out the genocide.
â€œThe French army trained and assisted in the training of the Interahamwe between 1992 and December 1993 in what was regarded as Operation Noroit. The training was conducted in the five military barracks where the French army was residing.â€
This, according to the report, was confirmed by a French military policeman, Thierry Prugnaud, in an interview on French Television on April 22, 2005.
â€œI saw members of the French army training Rwandan militias how to use rifles. That happened several times but the only time I actually saw it was when some 30 militiamen were trained how to fire in Akagera National Park,â€ Prugnaud was quoted as saying.
Preparing lists of suspected Tutsi
The report also accuses France of having played an active role in preparing lists of suspected Tutsi and Government opponents.
â€œAccording to your directive, I have the honour to submit to you an electronic filing system where you will easily trace people meant to be investigatedâ€, French adviser Michel Robardey wrote to the chief of the staff of the Rwandan gendarmerie in October 1992.
The lists were later used by Rwandan soldiers to move from house to house, killing political opponents and distinguished Tutsi.
The computerised lists project was initiated by Gen. Jean Varret, who was in charge of Rwandan-French military co-operation at the time. Before Franceâ€™s own commission investigating its role in the genocide, Varret confirmed that he was convinced France had helped Rwandaâ€™s intelligence services prepare the lists of Tutsis to be killed.
Appointment of Bagosora
According to the report, the French asked the then army commander, Col. Bagosora, to take control of the country after Habyarimanaâ€™s death. Bagosora, the commission noted, was a known extremist who had earlier said he would â€˜prepare an apocalypseâ€™.
â€œOn April 7, 1994, the French ambassador in Rwanda, together with Col. Jean-Jacques Maurin, went to meet Col. Bagosora and asked him to take charge of the situation,â€ the report states.
In addition, it says, French diplomatic and military support to the interim government continued during the genocide. â€œOn May 9, 1994, Gen. Huchon hosted Lt.-Col. Ephrem Rwabalinda, adviser to the FAR chief of staff,â€ the report says.
â€œGen. Huchon promised to provide ammunition in the category of 105mm, other types of ammunition as well as communication equipment to facilitate the communication with Gen. Augustin Bizimungu, FAR commander in chief.â€
Delivery of Arms and ammunition
Throughout the genocide, the report argues, France continued supplying the Rwandan interim-government with arms and ammunition. It quotes Belgian Col. Luc Marshall, who was heading a unit of UN peacekeepers in Kigali, as saying in the French Le Monde newspaper:
â€œWe were informed on 8 [April 1994] that French planes would land the following day around 6:00am. Actually, they arrived at 3:45am. Cases of ammunition - probably five tons - were discharged from a plane and were transported by vehicles of the Rwandan army to Kanombe barrack which was used as the base for the presidential guard.â€
More ammunition was delivered at Goma airport in the former Zaire where the interim-government had fled.
â€œIn May, more than one month after the beginning of massacres, the French offloaded a cargo plane full of arms in Goma. The French Consul at Goma said he was not in a position to intervene since it was a private contract executed before the embargo on Rwanda was imposed,â€ the report notes.
The commission, according to the report, further found weapons purchase orders in Mugunga refugee camp in Goma involving two French companies, Sofremas and Luchaire.
The report also raps the French military intervention in western Rwanda in June 1994 in what was called Operation Turquoise.
â€œThe first objective of this intervention was to divide the country in two starting from Kigali, to stop the advance of the RPF and to force it to negotiate a power-sharing agreement with the genocide government,â€ the report says.
The French did not intervene when Tutsi civilians were being slaughtered in the area under their control, often in their presence, the commission observed.
â€œThey left in place the genocide infrastructure, namely road blocks manned by Interahamwe. They requested Interahamwe to continue patrolling the road blocks and kill Tutsi moving around.â€
The report also accuses French soldiers of having been directly involved in cases of rape and killing, and of having encouraged the Hutu population to massively flee to Zaire during the last days of their mission.
â€œCol. Sartre organized a public meeting on July 13, 1994 at Rubengera where he strongly encouraged the population to flee to Zaire by promising Franceâ€™s assistance for a speedy armed return to Rwandaâ€, the report notes.
â€œFrench soldiers accompanied the ex-FAR and Interahamwe into Zaire where they immediately assisted them in the form of military training, arms and ammunition supplies to prepare an armed return.â€
During Zone Turquoise, the report concludes, Franceâ€™s involvement in the genocide became most visible. As France had a mandate from the UN to create a humanitarian safe zone, it bears responsibility for the massacres carried out in the area under their control, it argues.
â€œBy deciding to maintain the politicians and administrators in place and collaborate with those who had perpetrated the genocide in the previous two and half months, by requesting them or allowing them to continue killing Tutsi, the French soldiers and their commanders took full control of the genocide project.â€
French politicians accused
- Francois Mitterrand: President of the Republic of France
- Alain Juppe: Minister of Foreign Affairs
- Leotard: Minister of Defense
- Marcel Debarge: Minister of Cooperation
- Hubert Vedrine: Secretary General in the Presidentâ€™s Office
- Edouard Balladur: Prime Minister
- Delaye: Presidential Advisor
- Jean-Christophe Mitterrand: Presidential Advisor
- Paul Dijoud: Head of Africa and Madagascar Unit in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
- Dominique De Villepin: Assistant Head of Africa and Madagascar Unit
- Georges Martres: French Ambassador to Rwanda
- Jean-Michel Marlaud: French Ambassador to Rwanda
- Jean-Bernard Merimee: French Ambassador to the UN
â€˜How France aided genocideâ€™