13 December 2017

Rwanda: New Report Links France to Genocide in Rwanda

Photo: Sam Ngendahimana/New Times
Some of the people who turned up at Murambi Genocide memorial in Nyamagabe to pay tribute to Genocide victims in April 2017.

Fresh details have emerged in a new report pointing to the involvement of France in the planning and execution of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The report, released early Wednesday by the Government of Rwanda, is the result of an inquiry by Washington, DC, law firm Cunningham Levy Muse LLP, and documents the role and knowledge of French officials in the world's fastest genocide that killed more than a million people in a space of a hundred days.

French officials facilitated the flow of weapons into Rwanda in the build-up to the Genocide, despite knowing about violent attacks against the minority Tutsi group in the country, the new report says.

Despite this knowledge of recurring massacres of the Tutsi during the early 1990s, French officials allowed génocidaires (perpetrators of the Genocide) to meet within the French Embassy in Kigali and begin to form the interim government that presided over Rwanda during the Genocide, the report adds.

It further says that private communications between French officials reveal that Opération Turquoise, a French military mission deployed in Rwanda at the height of the Genocide and presented as a humanitarian mission "had the military objective of propping up the interim government responsible for the Genocide, and preventing its removal by the Rwandan Patriotic Front, who eventuality halted the atrocities in July 1994".

The report also cites French officials' continued efforts to protect Genocide perpetrators from justice. "French officials provided safe harbour to suspected génocidaires and obstructed attempts to bring them to justice at various points during the 23 years since the Genocide," it says.

It also says that "French authorities have refused to declassify and release documents that are vital to a full understanding of the activity of French officials at the time of the Genocide, and to allowing the public to finally learn the truth".

France has failed either to extradite or to prosecute the majority of the dozens of Genocide suspects residing within the country, it adds.

The new inquiry further questions a 1998 French Parliamentary Commission's investigation into the role of French officials in the Genocide in Rwanda, saying the probe was "neither transparent nor complete".

The Muse Report was based solely on information available in the public record and concludes that there is evidence to substantiate allegations of foreign involvement in the Genocide, including that of French officials, adding that French actors continue to undermine accountability with regard to the Genocide.

"The report, which has been shared with the Government of France, is part of wider efforts by Rwanda, announced in November 2016, to thoroughly investigate the responsibility of French officials in respect of the Genocide," according to a statement released by the Government.

Reacting to the latest report, Foreign affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo, said Rwanda agrees with the findings of the report, which she describes as "a damning summary of conduct by French officials in Rwanda during the 1990s and thereafter".

We agree with the report recommendation that a full investigation into the role of French officials in the Genocide is warranted, she said in the statement.

"Historical clarity is crucial and concerns us all. The Government of Rwanda commissioned the Muse Report to inform our ongoing investigation into the role of French officials before, during, and after the Genocide," Mushikiwabo said.

She added: "We have transmitted the Muse Report to the Government of France, which has responsibilities to face. This is also an opportunity for French authorities to collaborate better with Rwanda in the pursuit of truth, justice and accountability regarding the Genocide against the Tutsi."

France and Rwanda have had uneasy relations since the RPF stopped the Genocide and defeated the genocidal regime in July 1994, with France reluctant to accept its responsibility in the killings, while many Genocide fugitives continue to freely live in France, with several others being released by French courts without trial.

The closest that France came to acknowledging its role in the slaughter was in February 2010 when then president Nicolas Sarkozy admitted during a visit to Rwanda that his country had committed "grave errors of judgment" in the days leading up to and during the Genocide.

A previous investigation by the Government of Rwanda also linked dozens of French political and military leaders to the Genocide.

Cunningham Levy Muse, the authors of the new report, describe themselves as "a premier global law and strategic advisory firm whose clients include multinational Fortune 500 companies and prominent individuals".

With broad experience in advanced technology and complex civil and criminal litigation matters, the lawyers of Cunningham Levy Muse boast a multi-decade track record of successful resolutions to challenging national and international issues, the American firm says.

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