French role in Rwanda genocide probed

From AP, Dec. 23:

PARIS — A French military tribunal opened an investigation Friday into allegations that French peacekeepers facilitated attacks on ethnic minority Tutsis during the 1994 genocide of more than half a million Rwandans, judicial officials said.

A judge from the tribunal visited Rwanda last month to interview six survivors who had filed a lawsuit in February accusing troops of “complicity in genocide” and “crimes against humanity.” The judge, Brigitte Raynaud, will head up the investigation, said the judicial officials, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

One of the central claims of the suit is that French soldiers allowed members of the Rwandan Armed Forces or militiamen to enter camps set up to protect Tutsis, said the survivors’ lawyer, Antoine Comte. The Tutsis were later killed, he said.

French officials have repeatedly denied that France aided or directed the Hutu forces involved in the slaughter.

Hutu militias killed more than 500,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus during the genocide, which lasted from April to July 1994. Some estimate that up to 800,000 died.

Rwandan government and genocide survivor organizations have often accused France of training and arming the militias and former government troops who led the genocide.

In 1998, a French parliamentary panel absolved France of responsibility in the slaughter. But the lawmakers said that successive French governments had given diplomatic and military support to Rwanda’s extremist government between 1990 and 1994.

A French civilian investigatory panel, made up of lawyers, historians and leaders of human rights groups, issued a report earlier this year alleging that French forces helped the attackers more than the victims.

Last year, Rwanda set up a commission charged with collecting evidence of France’s alleged involvement in the genocide.

Elsewhere Friday, officials said the body of a former Rwandan government minister indicted on charges of involvement in the genocide had been found floating in a canal in Brussels, Belgium.

Former trade minister Juvenal Uwilingiyimana, who faced a variety of genocide charges from the U.N. International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, disappeared from his home on Nov. 21. His badly decomposed body was recovered from the canal last Saturday.

Uwilingiyimana had cooperated with investigators following his June indictment and was interviewed for the final time three days before he disappeared.

The ICTR said in a statement that he had expressed concern about “the dangers that he and his family would face from powerful persons in the Rwandan exile community when he told the truth about these persons’ responsibility for the Rwanda genocide.”

A cause of death has not been released. Police were investigating the incident.

See our last posts on Rwanda and the politics of Central Africa.

  1. French role in Rwanda genocide probed
    The French presence in Africa historically, has been blood thirsty and genocidal one. Everywhere France had a colony in Africa, whether in Central,West or North Africa, massive numbers of Africans died at the hands od French troops. In the case of Rwanda however, while not counting out the possiblilty of French troops having participated in some of the killing, France’s relationship and support for what was then the legitimate government of President Juvenal Habyarimana, has been distorted and misrepresneted. While seeking justice for the victims of what happened in Rwanda in 1994, we must not overlook the broader historical and geopolitcal reasons as to why the killings took place.

    As Mahmoud Mamdani points out in his book, “When Victims Become Killers: Genocide, Colonilasim and Nativism in Rwanda, the genocide in Rwanda did not began in 1994 but rather in 1884, the year that Western Europeans powers got together and conspired to carve up Africa for themselves. What followed were 2 distinct genocidal impulses that were produced in Africa. The first being that of the European invaders against the various native African populations. The second being that of the African native as he struggled to extract these genocidal foreigners forces from his land.

    In the case of Rwanda, with Belgium having implemented the colonial strategy of “indirect rule”, used the Tutsis as their proxies to rule over their Hutu brethen. The Belgiums inculcated the Tutsis with an artificial “quasi European racial (Hamaitic) indentity, so much so, that the Hutus began to view them as foreigners as well.

    With the coming of independence, the Tutsi elite refused to be ruled by the majority Hutus whom they had been taught by the Belgiums, were inferior to them and fled the country to places like Uganda where they immediately began to attack the newly independent Rwandan goverment.
    Because of this, some Tutsis (not all) were looked upon with suspicsion, and were viewed quite justifiably, as wanting to maintain the privileged status they had under colonialism.

    Attempts by Tutsis to invade the country were enhanced when the US began to train the Rwanda Patriotic Army in Uganda. France, which had had a relationship with Rwanda since independence, responded to President Habyarimana request for military assistance to ward off continued attacks by the RPA/RPF coming across the Ugandan border. Despite ongoing negotiations between the Habyarimana government and the RPF, President Habyarimana along with President Ntayaramiri of Burundi, were assassinated by the RPF when their plane was shot down as they returned from negotiations in Tanzania.

    Charges by some, that the French were involved in the shoooting of the plane carrying the 2 Hutu presidents belies all logic. While it cannot be overlooked that Frances relationship with the Habyarimana’s government was motivated by Frances concern to protect it’s interests
    in the region, this rush to blame France in part on in whole, is an attempt I feel, to obsfuscate the real reasons why this very tragic event happened and to provide cover for the many other culprits who were involved in instigating and benefitting from this genocide.

    1. french betrayal
      all i have to say about the french is that they can never be trusted when it comes to there foreign policies.they betrayed the british when it came to the partition of africa and with germany in the struggle for alcelorein and then they turned to us the unstable small fragile country for there own sellfish intrests.