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The ugly face of the French Republic

FRANCE-RWANDA : A genocide questioning French democracy-Yes, France knew - Progressively Breaking Away

AUTHOR:   Billets d'Afrique...et d'ailleurs

Translated by  AZ & SS

The arrest of Rose Kabuye, Chief of Protocol of Rwandan President Paul Kagame last, Sunday in Germany, at the request of French justice, has further increased the tension between Rwanda and the European Union. Rose Kabuye belongs to the Rwandan officials wanted by French judge Bruguière in connection with the April 1994 attack on the plane of President Juvenal Habyarimana, which gave the signal to the genocide. The issuing of these warrants created a major crisis between France and Rwanda, leading to a breaking of diplomatic ties. We publish two articles from Billets d’Afrique…et d’ailleurs, the newsletter of the French association Survie, which shed light on the background of the tension between Kigali and Paris.

A genocide questioning French democracy
by Isabelle Méricourt
Billets d’Afrique Nr. 172, September 2008

Beyond simplistic political interpretations or a so-called orchestration of complicity, the contents of the Rwandan Mucyo report on French implication in the genocide of 1994 require France to open a broad national debate.

The timing couldn’t have been worse than the beginning of August, just before the kickoff of the Olympic games for publicly releasing the long awaited Mucyo report on the French implication in the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsis. Could the Rwandan government really have ignored the actual media focus ? This having being remarked, the inherent recommendations of the report raise many other questions. One of the recommendations explicitly subordinates the pursuit of the accusations laid down in its conclusions to a political settlement between the two countries. Significantly nonetheless the Mucyo commission nominally cites thirteen French politicians and twenty members of the armed forces while charging “the competent administrations i.e. the Rwandan justice to take the required measures to bring these responsible persons, military as well as political to answer for their acts before justice”. Standing accused among others are the two Mitterrands-father and son Jean-Christofe, Alain Juppé, Edouard Balladur, Hubert Védrine, Dominique De Villepin and François Léotard … Manifestly we are dealing with the topmost decision makers of the French state so that the affair takes on quite serious dimensions when one country threatens the past leaders of another with legal actions for “complicity in genocide”. It is high time that the whole French nation be made party to the terms of this debate simply because fourteen years ago its elected representatives acted in our name in Rwanda … and today a new set of policy makers continue in the same vain in other parts of the world.

Justice Minister Tharcise Karugarama at the official launch of the Mucyo report on France’s role in the Rwanda Genocide. Photo J. Mbanda/THE NEW TIMES

The Mucyo report can be read from different angles. The official analysts of the French mainline press stick to a strictly, political interpretation of the 331 pages (plus a 166 page appendix) of the Rwandan inquiry. They consider it mainly as a reaction to the international arrest warrants issued by the French anti-terrorist judge Bruguière against nine members of the Rwandan inner circle, including president Kagamé himself, suspected of downing the plane of his predecessor on April 6, 1994. They also tend to look at the report itself as just another element to the secret bargaining between the two states. The bias of French journalism comes as no surprise and is readily perceptible. By insisting so much on the necessity for reserve, these journalists defacto help to screen off our former decision makers for whom these events are no longer open to debate : France is above reproach and all the rest is pure invention. This approach has the advantage of side stepping the need to read the report. And that’s probably precisely the point because the Mucyo report furnishes plenty of crushing evidence against France.

It begins with a chronological survey of Rwanda’s contemporary history followed by the details of French military cooperation, political relations and diplomacy for the crucial period between October 1990 and August 1994. Without contributing new historical information, the report refers to a number of previous, well known publications or inquiries by Gérard Prunier, Colette Braeckmann, Alison Desforges, Patrick de Saint-Exupéry, the 1998 French Parliamentary Information Mission of 1998, the 2004 independent Citizen’s Inquiry Commission, etc.). The interest of the Mucyo report does not reside so much in its revelations but in its remarkable synthesis of an admittedly, complex political tragedy.

A suffocating demonstration

Far from attempting to show us some sort of Machiavellian plot on the part of a French government united in its desire to exterminate the Tutsis, the report reconstitutes a puzzle otherwise complex and disturbing. French complicity is constructed something like the multi-layered French “mille feuille” pastry, consisting of different objectives none of which in themselves were aimed at unleashing a genocide but where all the participants shared the same contempt for one particular population. Viewed from this angle, the demonstration is suffocating. Where the investigation relates irrefutable facts, French complicity in this genocide becomes patent (in the sense of the criminal definition used by international law for complicity which does not require direct physical participation in the extermination process and does not even require special, foregone, knowledge of its enactments). What every page of this report makes so painfully clear is that from October 1990 onwards France’s influence in Rwanda was omnipresent and that in no way could our government have ignored what was happening throughout the country at that time.

In the context of the period we rediscover that every decision was subordinated in one way or another to our typically, French geopolitical prejudices ; this time under the dogma of “the Tutsi threat” to our sphere of interests [the Elysée still relates to African states from the century old perspective of Anglo-French rivalry, so that the English speaking, Ugandan support of the Tutsis was perceived to threaten France’s hegemony in the Great Lakes Region, particularly in neighbouring Congo-Zaire ; translator’s note]……..The imbrications of French military personnel within the Rwandan army via a multitude of secret, military conventions as well as the numerous collusions developed within the 3 year period by a small group of French marine officers or Special Operations Commanders are rather edifying. Equally edifying is the role played by the French ambassador Marlaud who on April 7,1994 facilitated the formation of the Rwandan Interim Government within the very walls of the French embassy thereby conferring a sort of legitimacy to the coup d’état of the night before. By far more portentous than the fatal sabotage of the Rwandan president’s Falcon jet, the immediate French consecration of the interim genocide apparatus might very well have been the crucial political event which set the genocide into motion.

Putting all these corroborating events side by side the Mucyo commission provokes such a disturbing picture of French involvement during this critical period that we must ask ourselves, “how we would consider a country compromised to this extent with the Nazis ?” The commission also brings forth the “new” accusations concerning the behaviour of French troops during the military operations between 1990 and 1994 and imputes a number of rapes, brutal interrogations, tortures and massacres to those French ground forces. Eyewitness accounts abound with atrocities. The gravity of their accusations against French Army personnel demands at the very least an objective counter-inquiry. No one is saying that our special forces soldiers are all torturers, but recent history unfortunately accredits the plausibility of some of these allegations (for example the recent murder of Firmin Mahé involving special forces soldiers of the Licorne operation in the Ivory Coast). Anyone who has travelled through former French Africa where our troops are still stationed, and who has had the occasion to observe certain legionnaires in operation would hardly question the credibility of the reported accusations.

Moreover the entire framework of these accusations largely surpasses the Rwandan setting alone. Since well over 50 years Africa has been the favourite training ground for our ex-colonial troops and, despite the specific character of the 1994 genocide, France’s role in Rwanda has not differed significantly from that which it played and still plays in its sub-Saharan ex-colonies.

This time “it went all wrong”

For all of the aforementioned reasons, it is necessary to reconsider the French implication in the Rwandan genocide within the general context of France’s continuing “Françafrique” way of operating in Africa [“Francafrique” designates French neo-colonial practises in Africa, characterised by presidential exclusivity, military interventionism and the blatant absence of democratic counter-controls, translator’s note]. “If things went wrong” this time, as has been cynically but discreetly let on by the inner core of past policy makers, our country in 2008 is still on the wrong side of the divide as it continues to support the bloody dictatorships of Idriss Déby [Chad], Sassou Nguesso [Congo-Brazzaville], Paul Biya [Cameroon] and François Bozizé [Central African Republic]. No lesson has been drawn from what should have been recognized to be what it was, namely a moral disaster for our country. Don’t we have to ask ourselves why some of our leaders accompanied a government of genocide planners and perpetrators before, during and even afterwards ? Doesn’t this simple question in itself indicate our grievous failure ? Doesn’t the question merit a national debate and to begin with the designation of a long postponed parliamentary inquiry commission. Putting aside the evident domestic acclamation generated by the commission’s results within Rwanda, the Mucyo report nevertheless tells us that the genocide of the Rwandan Tutsis was also a strictly French national affair whose abject objectives seriously compromise our own democracy.

Translated by SS

Further reading on this subject :

Linda Melvern, France and Genocide:The Murky Truth ; Times Online, August 8, 2008. 
Linda Melvern, Conspiracy to Murder:The Rwandan Genocide ; Verso 2006 
Magnus Linklater, Rwanda : a story too terrible to believe ; Times Online March 2, 2005 
Andrew Wallis, Silent Accomplice:The untold story of France’s role in the Rwandan Genocide, I.B. Tauris 2007 
R.W.Johnson,Blood on their Hands ; Times Online November 12, 2006
William Ferroggiaro, The U.S. and the Genocide in Rwanda 1994 : the assassination of the presidents and the beginning of the “Apocalypse” ; declassified documents report from the National Security Archive Briefing Book ; consult the National Security Archive website at
http://www.gwu.edu/ nsarchiv/

Rwanda: Yes France knew...
by Alain Gauthier
Billets d’Afrique Nr. 173, October 2008

Next April 2009 we will be marking the 15th year after the genocide of the Tutsi population of Rwanda as well as the massacre of a number of other Rwandan citizens opposed to the disastrous political course chosen by the Rwandan state in 1994. From now until then our monthly newsletter will publish a series of articles dedicated to the memory of this tragedy in which we will revisit the events leading up to this horrific slaughter. Survie continues to analyze the debt of reparation our government owes all the citizens of Rwanda, especially all the Tutsi survivors and their offspring. In this short article, Alain Gauthier president of the Collective of civil parties for Rwanda (CPCR), speaks for a group of French and Rwandan citizens engaged in an arduous legal precedent against French military personal. We are confident that our publications and legal commitments will contribute towards overcoming the taboo that still surrounds public debate on the responsibility of our top policy makers in this French debacle. 

            It’s no ground breaking revelation to say that France knew. It’s certainly not the recent publication of the Mucyo report by the Rwandan government that suddenly reveals to us something we never knew, even if most of our government officials are still in denial. Book shelves full of academic studies and journalist investigations have already contributed massively towards singling out France as the major foreign actor in this genocide by obstinately supporting and sustaining a faltering regime that in a last ditch effort to maintain power chose to make the extermination of its Tutsi minority the major theme for a come back. Our policy makers at the time knew perfectly well the mindset of their chosen partners in Rwanda, partners whom they buoyed up since 1991 with military consignments, technical advice and diplomatic stratagems instead of pressuring them into abandoning their crazy bet on applying racial solutions to political problems which in turn lead to the final ugly conclusion witnessed by all the world after April 1994.

             Allow me to evoke some of my own personal remembrances of that time. January 29, 1993, after the heart-rending appeal on prime-time television of Jean Carbonare, then president of Survie, I wrote to Francois Mitterrand begging him to reason with the Rwandan chief of state, Juvenal Habyarimana. My letter ended with the supplication,” act quickly before it may be too late.” On February 15 I received an answer signed by Gaetan Gorce from the presidential office affirming that France was taking “an active role in Rwanda to allow all the parties in conflict to reach a global agreement in order to re-establish peace.”

            As my letter had been transmitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs, I soon received another letter dated March 3 from a certain technical advisor, Emmanuel Delloye, which detailed all the past French interventions in Rwanda and underlined that “France has always been guided by the desire to stabilize and calm the situation.” Operation Noroît and its reinforcement in 1992 was justified by the necessity to protect our expatriates. Delloye’s reply evoked the non-respect by the Rwandan Patriotic Forces of the February 8 cease-fire agreement and reiterated that “France was deploying new efforts to bring the two conflicting parties into negotiations.” These diplomatically worded arguments did not in the least answer the pressing questions of my earlier letter.

            When my wife returned precipitously from Kigali on March 1, I once again implored President Mitterrand to urgently impose upon his Rwandan counterpart, but this time my letter remained unanswered. At that point we realized the crash course events were going to take. Our policy makers also knew but continued to sustain a state apparatus full of individuals willing to try out the most radical of solutions i.e. massive assassinations.

            The French mounted, military mission sent to Rwanda after July 5,1994 was called Operation Turquoise, and its Special Forces operatives permitted a great number of genocide planners and perpetrators to enter France, in particular ranking members of the Rwandan FAR army. Furthermore our government managed to enroll part of the Catholic Church to provide refuge for certain Rwandan clerics publicly accused of aiding and abetting the perpetrators. At this date Wenceslas Munyeshyaka continues his ministration in the small French town of Gisors; Claver Kamana is housed by the religious order of Saint-Joseph at Annecy; Dominique Ntawukuriyayo, the cousin of the archbishop of Kigali lives in Carcassone and works for Catholic Relief (Secours Catholic) and the Pastoral for migrants. After residing nearly 15 years in France these men have still not been arrested and brought to trial.

                                                           Judicial Inertia  

            Although the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has given up trying to transfer Wenceslas Muneyshyaka and Laurent Bucyibaruta to the ICTR courtroom in Arusha, France has publicly engaged its government to bring them to trial in France. At this stage we have every reason to doubt that the legal demands and fixed delays of the ICTR will be respected by our judiciary, and our own patience is not unlimited. After 15 years the civilian parties seeking justice are now being told that our judiciary doesn’t posses the material means to work efficiently! On top of that France and Rwanda suspended relations in 2006 after the pitiful judicial manoeuvring of ex-judge Bruguière provoked the diplomatic rupture between Paris and Kigali, a legal imbroglio which doesn’t facilitate the work of the newly designated magistrates. To the extent that the judicial procedures were all initiated by accusations from individual plaintiffs or human rights associations like the CPCR, The League for Human Rights, the International Federation of Human Rights, the Rwandan Community of France as well as Survie we would like to be kept informed and more closely associated with the trail process.

                                               The long ordeal of the civilian plaintiffs

            Being a plaintiff in the case of genocide or complicity to commit genocide is no sinecure. It implies conforming oneself to an obstacle course where each successive barrier becomes more insurmountable. It means looking for and finding the presumed perpetrators who have slipped under cover or have found themselves a new identity that allows them to live amongst us unnoticed and unmolested. It means travelling to Rwanda to make inquiries, to check statements, to record confessions which certain repentant assassins are sometimes only willing to sign in exchange for a promise of reduced prison time. It means encountering Rwandan survivors so overwrought with anxiety, helplessness or indescribable sadness that to recount their suffering once more for the benefit of an outside investigation in France is often beyond their capacity of endurance. Hundreds of documents must be translated for our lawyers who practically work for free because we have no way of remunerating them properly. So many persons who have stuck with us throughout this arduous legal processes have seen their personal projects put on ice or have become irremediably discouraged confronted with our judiciary’s inertia. Most unbearable feelings of anger overcome us when we see survivors on the witness bench facing torturers who expect them to lower their gaze!

            We have every reason to believe that the French presidential office knew perfectly well what was coming down in 1994,and today in 2008 it is our informed conviction that part of the highest judicial hierarchy is doing everything in its power to prevent the plaintiffs from bringing the genocide perpetrators into the courtroom. At a time when the extradition of Claver Kamana to Arusha was seriously under consideration, the Paris Appellate Court annulled the decision and set him free in a climate of general indifference. The same thing goes for the case of Bivugabagabo in Toulouse. As for Isaac Kamali he is free to come and go as he pleases since he managed to get French citizenship; he also seems to be awaiting the final decision of the judges with undisguised serenity. In all three cases no order for extradition has been issued, so we expect the Prosecutors office to follow suit. Of course if it doesn’t, we will have to go back to work ourselves and get ready to appeal the verdicts.

            No one today can ignore the essential French factor in the macabre success of the genocide enterprise against the Tutsi minority even if most of the butchering was carried out under Rwandan direction. However by arming the perpetrators, by helping them set themselves up, then facilitating their flight out of the country and even providing refuge for many of them in France an ally turns into an accomplice. We need to know the truth; we need to see due process accomplished. France would go a long way to recovering a bit of honor by helping to bring all those accused of this odious crime against humanity to trial. We are not motivated by hatred or vengeance when we claim and reclaim justice for all the victims and their families. The French judiciary must assume its part in establishing the truth and creating some measure of justice to provide our citizens with the legal precedent that will help us find our way out of the moral wreckage encumbering Franco-African relations since 1994.


Translated by AZ

Progressively Breaking Away
By Théophane Kizi
Billets D’Afrique Nr. 174, November 2008

In preparation of the 15th Commemoration of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, every month from here until then, Billets d’Afrique will be opening its columns to people who continue to seek an answer to the terrifying question of France’s complicity in this tragedy. Théophane Kizi is a Rwandan citizen and regular reader of Billets d’Afrique. In this contribution he shares his impressions with us.

 In November 2006 as a follow up to the international arrest warrants issued by French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière against 9 civilian and military personalities, Rwanda recalled its Paris ambassador and closed the French diplomatic mission in Kigali. Rwanda reacted against a biased judicial inquiry and an unjustified decision. This first decoupling from the Francophone pole was not motivated by either economic or commercial considerations. To understand Rwanda’s reaction we cannot ignore what constitutes the backdrop, namely the genocide of 1994. The vehemence employed by the French government against the military leaders of the rebellion who fought and defeated the forces responsible for the genocide of 1994 seemed specious confronted with France’s record of inaction when it came to arresting perpetrators living within her own territory. For having supported Habyarimana’s regime by not publicly denouncing his acts, a number of French military officers and politicians are suspected of complicity in genocide. At the issue of the Mucyo report, the report of the national inquiry commission into the role played by France in the genocide of 1994, the Rwandan government drew up a list of 33 French personalities whose official conduct should be investigated by the public prosecution and who should be brought to court if the inquiries confirm the allegations of the commission members. It is now nearly 12 years back that the French parliamentary information mission published its report on the same subject. At the time the Quilès report (named after Paul Quilès, president of the commission) concluded in the blindness or lack of vigilance on the part of France’s decision makers and actions at the limit of engagement on the part of our military forces in the conflict. The report admitted to no legally reprehensible conduct. It is regrettable that over the last 15 years the radicalism of the divergence between Paris and Kigali as well the gravity of the subject-a genocide- has not been the object of any debate within the Francophone family.

 Just before the last summit meeting of Francophone countries in Canada, Rwanda announced that it was thinking about substituting English as the language to be used in schools instead of French which has been in use for over 70 years ever since the creation of public schools. The argument is incontestable. In order to accompany and successfully achieve integration into the East African region, the education system of Rwanda should allow its future generations to master English. A look at the map clearly shows that Rwanda naturally belongs to the East African space. An absence of strong ties to the neighbouring states of Tanzania and Kenya would enclave Rwanda and condemn it to underdevelopment. The Eastern area, open to world trade via the Indian Ocean is constructing unions and dynamic communities with promising potential for development where English is the only working language.

 France standing at attention 
 The Francophone areas west of Rwanda do not offer comparable advantages. The DRC Congo is bogged down by seemingly endless crisis. The Atlantic coast is too far away. And as we have seen, it doesn’t look like our interrupted relations with France, the motor of western Francophone Africa are going to be reconnected any time soon.

 In order to dodge the slightest responsibility in what happened to Rwanda France swears by her honor and advances the separation of the executive branches to avoid taking measures against the international warrants issued by the judge Jean-Louis Bruguière.

 For Kigali, Bruguière’s conclusions are all the more unacceptable because he attempts to inverse the roles of guilt by blaming the Rwandan Popular Front movement who were the victims as well as the liberators for the fateful crash and the launching of the genocide. Renewing relations would mean that one party or the other should submit to the judgment of the contending faction or that each party should take the necessary steps towards the other to enable some kind of encounter. The second alternative is more likely. The French executive should at least admit to its blindness and failure to recognize the obvious risks inherent in supporting a State that was preparing genocide. Nevertheless it is difficult to see how the French executive could promise the government of Rwanda that it will order its Public Prosecution to annul the arrest warrants.

 According to the abiding rules, it couldn’t, but judging from all the serious defects and insufficiencies of these notorious circulars, the prosecutor’s office might honorably consider withdrawing the warrants from circulation until the judges can visit the site of the crash, inspect the plane’s debris, examine the persons indicted and be capable of identifying the suspects more precisely. France may “only” be asking Rwanda to renew diplomatic relations by reopening both embassies in Paris and Kigali, but can the Rwandan government go back on its decision as long as the causes for the rupture remain?

One More Tie Removed from the Binds of Franco Rwandan relations

Except that, given the very gravity of the problems between the two countries, they have to find some kind of form or formula for establishing a framework of diplomatic relations to ensure an ongoing dialogue. The latest decision of Kigali concerning the French language goes a long way to removing one more tie which in the past bound both countries; in any case the separation has been accentuated. Rwanda has affirmed its difference and is turning away from a family within whose midst it no longer feels in phase since nearly 15 years. The fundamental question posed by the attitude of the Rwandan authorities towards the French language is a question of values and ethics. Rwanda knows perfectly well that a language is not just the key to access markets and make business contact. If the Rwandan authorities want their children to master English in view of facilitating the integration into an east African regional market, the measures it will take to preserve the French heritage will depend heavily on the value the government accords to this heritage.              

Translated by AZ



Sources: Le génocide rwandais questionne la démocratie française , Rwanda La face cassée de la République (épisode 2), Un déchirement progressif

Original articles published in Sept., Oct. & Nov. 2008

About the authors

SS and AZ are members of the association Survie, a partner of Tlaxcala, the network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, authors and translators are cited.

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