ANOTHER ROUND IN THE FRENCH RWANDAN CONFLICT
Rwanda accuses French of genocide and name names. Good for them. While the Hutu are the primary culprits, there is certainly plenty of blame to go around for the failure to prevent this second holocaust, the French response was particularly despicable.
The French deny responsibility. This is the latest round in the lengthy battle between the Rwandan Tusti government and the French. After all, the French not only befriended the Hutu murderers but sent in it's army to save the Hutu from Tusti retaliation once it became clear that the Hutu are about to lose control of the country.
To make matters worse, the French accuse the Tusti of lighting the fire by downing the fatal plane killing Rwanda's Hutu leaders. Tusti mass murder followed the downing of that plane. The direct involvement of former president Mitterand was revealed in a French court last year:
The former French president François Mitterrand supported the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide despite clear warnings that mass killings of the Tutsi population were being orchestrated, according to declassified French documents.
The publication of the documents in today's Le Monde for the first time confirms long-held suspicions against France. The previously secret diplomatic telegrams and government memos also suggest the late French president was obsessed with the danger of"Anglo-Saxon" influence gripping Rwanda. In three months from April 1994, at least a million Rwandans - mainly Tutsis - were systematically slaughtered in killings engineered by the Hutu regime to exterminate its ethnic rivals and repel the Uganda-trained Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
The documents, obtained by lawyers for six Tutsi survivors who are bringing a case against France for" complicity with genocide'' at the Paris Army Tribunal, suggest the late President Mitterrand's support for the Hutus was informed by an obsession with maintaining a French foothold in the region. One of the lawyers, Antoine Compte, said France was aware of the potential danger of its support for the pre-genocide Rwandan government."Massacres on an ethnic basis were going on and we have evidence that France knew this from at least January 1993. The French military executed the orders of French politicians. The motivation was an obsession with the idea of an Anglo-Saxon plot to oust France from the region."
Mr Compte said the file of diplomatic messages and initialled presidential memos, obtained from the François Mitterrand Foundation, provided evidence that the French military in Rwanda were under direct instruction from the Elysée Palace. The lawyer yesterday called on the investigating judge at the Paris Army Tribunal to interview senior French political figures, including military figures, diplomats, the former defence minister, Pierre Joxe and former prime minister, Alain Juppé.
"It emerges quite clearly from the documents that diplomats, the French secret services, military figures and Mr Joxe wanted France to disengage from Rwanda, or at least to act differently. But the president was obsessed,'' said Mr Compte.
Among the evidence to suggest France was informed of the mounting genocide is a diplomatic telegram from October 1990 in which the French defence attaché in the Rwandan capital Kigali alerts Paris of the"growing number of arbitrary arrests of Tutsis or people close to them". The cable adds:"It is to be feared that [it could] degenerate into an ethnic war.''
Another diplomatic memo, sent by French ambassador Georges Martres on 19 January 1993, quotes a Rwandan informant as saying that thepresident of the country, Juvenal Habyarimana, had suggested"proceeding with a systematic genocide using, if necessary, the army''.
Habyarimana was killed on 6 April 1994 - the date that marks the start of the genocide - when his plane was shot down over Kigali.
Even though Rwanda was Belgian for most of the colonial era, France took a strong interest in the country after independence, seeing it as a bulwark against the powerful influences of English-speaking Uganda and Kenya.
In the 1980s, French involvement in Rwanda was limited to two dozen military advisers. But when the Uganda-based RPF began launching attacks against President Habyarimana's regime in 1990, France sent arms and troops. Critics claim French troops stood by and watched as Rwandan Hutu soldiers massacred Tutsi civilians.
France claims its military involvement was aimed at aiding Hutu-Tutsi power-sharing. Last year, a French investigating magistrate, Jean-Louis Bruguière alleged the RPF shot down Habyarimana's aircraft and issued arrest warrants against nine high-ranking officials in the current Rwandan government.
It should be noted that Sakozy himself was not involved. His rivals were. Hence, the much hoped for improvement between France and Rwanda may still be in the cards but not before the French say sorry. And that is as it should be.
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