Rwanda has begun formal investigations into the role of senior French officers and politicians in connection with the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis.
In a brief statement released Tuesday evening, the Prosecutor-General Richard Muhumuza said the probe will focus on 20 individuals, who will be required to answer to allegations against them.
The announcement comes barely two months after diplomatic relations between Kigali and Paris deteriorated further following France’s revelation that it would open a fresh inquiry into the shooting down of the aeroplane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana.
Kigali reiterated by releasing a list of 22 senior French army officers it says knowingly aided the planning and execution of the genocide.
“The Office of the Prosecutor-General announces the start of a formal criminal inquiry into the role of certain French Government agents and/or officials in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda.
“The inquiry, for now, is focused on 20 individuals whom, according to information gathered so far, are required by the Prosecution Authority to explain or provide clarity on allegations against them, to enable the Authority to make conclusions whether the concerned individuals should be formally charged or not,” Mr Muhumuza said.
The two countries are divided by differing narratives on the 1994 genocide.
Earlier this month, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said Kigali would ask French authorities to allow its investigators to interrogate the latter’s citizens it links to the massacre.
“There are names, there are faces, this is not something that is fabricated. It is information that is out there and we believe as a country that perhaps our willingness to rebuild the relationship has been not appreciated by France and perhaps seen as a sign of weakness. It is not,” Ms Mushikiwabo said.
“We will use our own means to conduct professional investigations. We will use the information we have. We will request France to allow our investigators to have access to particular individuals, politicians, officers, and let’s see what happens,” she added.
Mr Muhumuza said the Rwandan government has already reached out to Paris. “The Office of the Prosecutor General expects that reciprocal judicial cooperation will be availed throughout this inquiry by the relevant French Government agencies and authorities.”
Currently France has no ambassador in Rwanda, after Kigali rejected a designated envoy it says is biased but the embassy remains open, while the Rwandan embassy in Paris is fully operational.