21 September 2017

Rwanda: Genocide - France Can Keep the Archives - The Truth Is There for All to See

Photo: The East African
President Paul Kagame met his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron in New York on September 18, 2017.

On April 7, 2015 as the world joined Rwandans for the 21st commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, France proclaimed a good message, something that had never happened for two decades.

The then French President (Francois Hollande) decided to declassify documents related to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

These are Genocide related documents accumulated from 1990 to 1994 including minutes from secret defence meetings and files from advisers to then French president Francois Mitterrand.

Upon hearing the good news, I called one of the survivors of Bisesero (in the present-day Karongi District) where the French troops abandoned people in trouble when they first arrived in Bisesero on June 27, 1994.

He organises several public forums in France and elsewhere that seek the exposure of the complicity of French soldiers with the Interahamwe militiamen during the Genocide.

I had hoped that he would be interested in the "good news" from President Hollande.

Rather, he replied thus; "The archives are buried at Bisesero. Do you really think that France can release the documents describing its role during the Genocide? Even if they do so note that they will be falsified."

The "archives" buried at Bisesero he was referring to are not paper archives, rather the thousands of Tutsi who were killed on this majestic hill.

The Tutsi here left their hideouts when the French troops, under the so-called Operation Tourqouise, arrived in Bisesero with false promise that they had come to their rescue.

They were abandoned in the hands of the militia.

When some French soldiers disobeyed their superiors and returned to Bisesero three days later, thousands of innocent Tutsi who had resisted for two months had been slaughtered - after they were exposed to the militia. They died just as they had hoped that the French soldiers had come to protected them.

For almost two years, I kept wondering why the Bisesero survivor friend of mine did not believe in what the presidency of a powerful country like France had said.

I finally got the answer last Friday, when the French Constitutional Council rejected a complaint filed by François Graner, a French researcher, demanding rights to access the archives of former President Francois Mitterrand.

France is just hiding the truth of what happened and its role during the Genocide against the Tutsi.

If different archives, including arms purchases and supply documents, bank transfers, and travel clearances of genocidal government leaders, are in the hands of some researchers and called non comprising ones, it's clear that France kept documents which can support a court case.

Is declassification possible?

I would say YES, but when? May be after four generations, when French citizens who had a direct role and allies relatives are no longer alive.

In 2012, when Algeria was celebrating its 50th independence anniversary, the then French President Francois Hollande admitted that for 132 years of occupation of Algeria by France, and during seven-year war of independence, people were subjected to a profoundly unjust and brutal system of colonisation.

The comments came after many Algerians, including politicians, sought an apology from France for many years. The current French President Emmanuel Macron said during his presidential campaigns that France's history in Algeria amounted to "crime against humanity."

However, after his election, he said: "I am neither in repentance nor in denial" on France's role in Algeria and later apologised to French citizens for offending and hurting them by his campaign rhetoric.

Following Macron's comment condemning France's politics in Algeria, his rival Marie Le Pen qualified it as hate against France. For starters, Marie's father Jean Marie Le Pen is accused by different organisations of torture when he was a soldier during the Algerian war.

Little wonder she opposed Macron on the history of Algeria.

In Rwanda, France's responsibility is not limited to torture, but involves crimes of genocide and crimes against humanity. If, after two generations, France has yet to come to terms with its abusive past in Algeria, it is almost certain that it will take many more years for Paris accept its catastrophic role in the Genocide against Tutsi.

We may have to wait longer before they can declassify all the archives related to the Genocide in Rwanda.

The writer is a survivor of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

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