Rwandan genocide witnesses implicate
An unprecedented public inquiry into France's
role in the 1994 Rwanda genocide held hearings in Kigali last
week, where the French Army was accused of complicity in massacres
The seven-person French commission is
hearing testimony from 20 survivors, some claiming serious human
rights abuses, including rape and murder, by the French military.
The commission is also examining Operation
Turquoise, the 1994 French military intervention ostensibly aimed
at saving Rwandan lives. Human rights groups in France say French
soldiers tricked thousands of Tutsi survivors out of hiding and
abandoned them to the Interahamwe militia. Up to a million Tutsis
Close links existed between France and
Rwanda, ruled by a Hutu dictatorship for 20 years. France was
its biggest supplier of heavy military equipment and sent troops
in 1990 to repel an offensive from Uganda by the largely Tutsi
Rwandan Patriotic Front.
During nearly three years of civil war,
senior French officers sometimes took operational battlefield
control. In 1993, an international peace agreement replaced the
French with UN peacekeepers, to monitor creation of a power-sharing
For years, the French Government denied
any part in the genocide. Its own parliamentary inquiry in 1997
admitted only that France had underestimated the threat. But the
inquiry did reveal that former President Francois Mitterrand had
largely been responsible for Rwanda policy.
By 1994, the Rwandan Army had become a
"military protege" of France. Before the genocide, 47
high-ranking French Army and gendarmerie officers were with the
In April, 1994, French-trained officers
from the Presidential Guard eliminated the pro-democracy and political
opposition and French-trained soldiers began killing anyone with
a Tutsi identity card.
The Rwanda Commission has evidence that
the French trained the Interahamwe, and French officers were in
commando training centres, where torture was practised and political
France refused to allow the UN Security
Council to invoke the 1948 Genocide Convention to try to stop
the killing. Then, after five weeks of murders, it launched its
own military intervention.