An 18 month Rwandan enquiry has implicated dozens of senior French political and military figures for their role in the 1994 genocide that killed up to 800,000 mainly Rwandan Tutsis. A 500 page report commissioned by Rwandan Prime Minister Paul Kagame named 33 senior French officials including the late President Francois Mitterrand and three former Prime Ministers including Dominique de Villepin. The report said French troops took direct part in the massacre and France provided political, military, diplomatic and logistic support. While Rwanda has no immediate plans to seek indictment, justice minister Tharcisse Karugarama said yesterday the report "could be the basis for potential charges against individuals or the state."
Karugarama also highlighted “the role played by France in the aftermath to protect the genocidal forces and make it very difficult for them to be apprehended and brought to justice". Karugarama was referring to Operation Turquoise (pdf), the so-called “humanitarian mission” France launched in the south of the country after most of the killing had ended, in a vain attempt to stop the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) from ousting the genocidal Hutu Power regime.
Mitterrand and de Villepin were among a dozen politicians named by the report along with twenty military officials. Mitterrand was French president at the time with very close links to President Juvenal Habyarimana whose assassination sparked the three-month genocide. De Villepin was the chief aide to then foreign minister Alain Juppé, who was also named in the report along with then-prime minister Edouard Balladur.
The report was the result of the 18 month long Mucyo Commission, named for its president and former justice minister Jean de Dieu Mucyo. Prime Minister Kagame commissioned the report as part of the tit-for-tat campaign which began in 2006 when a French judge issued a warrant for his arrest on charges related to Habyarimana’s plane crash (which also killed several French crew). Rwanda immediately cut diplomatic ties and ordered the French ambassador to leave Kigali within 24 hours. Kagame then asked Mucyo to investigate France’s role in the Habyarimana incident and expanded it to cover the whole genocide period.
The actual report is not yet readily available on the Internet, however the Rwandan New Times is serialising it, and released the first segment today. The report begins by documenting the French military operation in the immediate aftermath of Habyarimana’s death called Operation Amaryllis. While the official justification of Amaryllis was to rescue French citizens from Rwanda, the real reason was to send 464 elite soldiers to shore up the Hutu regime against the RPF (who now rule Rwanda).
France also made a deliberate decision not to interfere in the genocide itself. French senior ministers Alain Juppé and Michel Roussin explained the reasons why Amaryllis would not involve itself in the massacres. “It is not a question of intervening militarily in Rwanda,” said Roussin. “ It is clear that our mission is of a humanitarian nature whose aim is to repatriate our nationals and their families". On the same day, Juppé was more philosophical: "Can France keep order in the whole world?” he said. “Does she have the means and responsibility to stop, on the whole planet, people from killing each other?"
While the French government has not yet formally reacted to the report, Alain Juppé was quick to denounce Rwandan attempts to implicate him and France in the genocide. He called the report an unacceptable falsification and claimed that during his time as head of French diplomacy (April 1993 to May 1995), France did everything it could to help Rwanda reconciliation. "Did we, for example, systematically take the side of one camp against another, Hutu against Tutsi?” he asked. "Did we 'fail' to denounce the genocide committed by Hutu extremists starting in April 1994?” He said both questions were “untruths”. But with this report likely to have serious international repercussions, these untruths may yet be stranger than fiction.