Rwanda: Fresh Details Emerge on How France Helped Genocide Masterminds Escape

Mourners at a commemoration event at Murambi Genocide Memorial (file photo).
15 February 2021

A French newspaper has seen a document that reveals how, during the Genocide against the Tutsi, 27 years ago, instead of arresting ring leaders of the mass murders, French troops helped them flee.

According to the online publication, Médiapart, it was already known that French military did not arrest the interim government leader in the Operation Turquoise area in July 1994 and that a top politician, Hubert Védrine, actually disapproved of the idea.

Majority of the families that were completely wiped out during the Genocide were located or had fled to the south-western part of rural Rwanda, in an area where a French military operation dubbed Operation Turquoise was deployed.

Védrine not approving the idea of arresting the interim government leaders, however, is no secret.

It has now emerged that the direct order was to let them flee.

Previously, Védrine, former Secretary-General of l'Elysée (French Presidency) under François Mitterrand-the French President during the 1994 Genocide, is known to have, among others, given direct orders to rearm the former Rwandan army and Interahamwe militia, defying a UN arms embargo.

Today, Vedrine presides over the Francois Mitterand Institute and heads his own consulting company. Vedrine is said to have great influence in France.

The details, Médiapart says, are contained in a document obtained from François Graner, author of books on Rwanda.

According to Médiapart, the document constitutes "the missing written piece, an essential piece of the puzzle" on the role of France in Rwanda.

France is accused of aiding the genocidal regime in Rwanda at the time and having a direct hand in the Genocide.

Graner was able to access archives of the Mitterrand presidency thanks to a decision of the Council of State.

The country's top administrative court last June ruled that the researcher could consult Mitterrand's archives on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, ending a long legal battle over access.

The Médiapart news article reveals that, despite the request from French diplomats to arrest members of the interim government, the cabinet of French minister Alain Juppé gave the order to let them flee to Zaïre, now the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

As noted, a confidential telegram was signed by Bernard Emié - then adviser to the head of French diplomacy - who is the present-day head of the DGSE (French foreign intelligence service).

"The main members of the government responsible for the genocide against the Tutsi are in an area controlled by the French army. Their arrest is possible and even demanded," Médiapart reported.

"An unpublished document, emanating from the office of the minister of foreign affairs of the time, Alain Juppé, proves today that France preferred to let them go. It is signed by the current boss of the DGSE."

In his personal comments at the end of the document, it is noted, Gen Christian Quesnot, who was the Special Military Adviser to the President Mitterrand, recommends to support, even at the cost of an "indirect strategy", the Rwandan regime against the Tutsi armed forces.

Quesnot is known to have especially invested so much energy in preventing what he termed as Rwanda turning into a "Tutsi land."

On February 19, 1994, Quesnot and Dominique Pin who was Deputy Chief of Staff for Africa in the Office of the President of France, presented two key views on Rwanda to Mitterrand. One of them was about what France would do, in light of the RPF chances of taking over power. Quesnot and Pin argued that France should multiply its efforts to help the Habyarimana's regime to prevent the RPF from taking over Kigali.

French journalist Théo Englebert told The New Times that French authorities continue to protect genocide suspects many years after the genocide.

"The case of Aloys Ntiwiragabo should be iconic," he said.

Last year, Englebert, an investigative journalist, exposed details on the presence in France of Ntiwiragabo, a mastermind of the 1994 Genocide who is also the former head of Rwandan military intelligence and founder of the DR Congo-based FDLR militia.

He entered France using false papers in 2001.

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