No evidence France was complicit in Rwanda genocide, but bears ‘overwhelming responsibility’

Monday April 05 2021

A walk in 2018 to remember the Genocide Against the Tutsi. For years, Rwanda and France have traded accusations over the latter’s role in the genocide. PHOTO | FILE | NMG

By Johnson Kanamugire

France released a report based on two years of consultation and research of the country’s archives by a team of historians to determine the country’s complicity

As Rwanda marks the 27th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi this month, survivors have lauded France’s commitment to unravelling the truth behind the killings, despite rejecting its complicity in a report on its alleged role in the genocide.

The report, based on two years of consultation and research of the country’s archives by a team of historians to determine France’s role and engagement in the genocide, was hailed as a good step in the attempt to end longstanding blots in relations with Rwanda.

“We see this as a good step for a country that started from denying the genocide and protecting the perpetrators. We have read its willingness from instituting the commission, and France has exhibited interest to carry out investigations that can lead to justice for perpetrators, especially since President Emmanuel Macron came to power,” Naphtal Ahishakiye, the executive secretary of genocide survivor organisation Ibuka, told The EastAfrican.

However, he said Ibuka still needs time to analyse France’s report in depth before it can make an official announcement on its findings.

“A legal team was assigned to analyse the report, specifically looking at the methodology used to gather the facts, and determine what is the truth and what is not,” he said.


Trading accusations

For years, Rwanda and France have traded accusations over the latter’s role in the genocide, especially militarily in aiding the perpetrators to escape justice.

The new report points to overwhelming responsibility by former president Francois Mitterrand and his entourage, for having provided support to those who committed the Genocide Against the Tutsi.

Their responsibilities are above all “political”, a “blindness” to the racist, corrupt and violent regime of former president Juvénal Habyarimana, the report points out.

Its findings further indicate that between 1990 and 1994, France provided unfailing military support to Rwanda, including through army training operations, despite the various alerts launched on the radicalisation of part of the Hutu regime.

The report however cleared France of complicity in the genocide, but points to the inability of decision-makers “to distinguish what was happening in Rwanda from mass massacres”.

“Nothing comes to show however that France became ‘accomplice’ of the genocide. If by that we mean a desire to be associated with the genocidal enterprise, nothing in the archives consulted comes to demonstrate it,” the report underlined.

The Rwandan government was quick to laud the report as an important step towards a common understanding of France’s role in the Genocide Against the Tutsi.

Previous allegations

In 2008, Rwanda published a report alleging Paris had played an active role in the preparation and execution of the genocide, allegations that successive regimes in France have rejected.

The government now says an investigative report commissioned in 2017 would be released in the coming weeks.

“The conclusions will compliment and enrich those of the Duclert commission,” said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation.

Rwanda’s bilateral relations with France showed signs of normalising with President Macron’s presidency as he tackled key contentious issues.

In addition to opening the contested archives, his regime undertook the process to declare April 7 as a national day of commemoration of the genocide perpetrates against the Tutsi.

The arrest of one of the alleged top masterminds of the genocide Felicien Kabuga in Paris last year also raised hopes of the country’s commitment to improve relations with Rwanda.

Kigali expects to see France make further steps in extraditing genocide fugitives in the country. The country counts the highest number of suspects in the West based on indictments and arrest warrants issued by the Rwandan prosecution.

Ahead of President Macron’s planned visit to Rwanda sometime this year, Europe-based genocide survivor groups and activists have intensified calls on France to prosecute and bring to trial all genocide suspects still hiding on its soil 27 years later.