A report commissioned by the Rwandan government has indicated that the French government;bears “significant” responsibility for “enabling a foreseeable genocide” in Rwanda in 1994.
The report also noted France’s role before and during the massacre in which an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered.
It comes amid efforts by Rwanda to document the role of French authorities before, during, and after the genocide. The report also follows steps taken by France’s President, Emmanuel Macron to improve relations with the Central African country.
The authors of the report stated that France “did nothing to stop” the massacres, in April and May 1994. The 600-page report adds that in the years after the genocide, the French government tried;to cover up its role and even offered protection to some perpetrators.
It also stresses that in years leading up to the genocide, former French President, Francois Mitterrand and his administration had;knowledge of preparations for the massacres. However, the report notes, he kept supporting the government of then-Rwandan President, Juvénal Habyarimana despite the “warning signs.”
“In the years before the genocide, French officials armed, advised, trained, equipped, and protected;the Rwandan government, heedless of the Habyarimana regime’s commitment to the dehumanization and, ultimately,;the destruction and death of Tutsi in Rwanda.
“The French government was neither blind nor unconscious about the foreseeable genocide”.
The report adds that French authorities at the time pursued;“France’s own interests, in particular the reinforcement and expansion of France’s power and influence in Africa.”
The Rwandan report,;commissioned is based on a wide range of documentary sources from governments, non-governmental organizations and academics including diplomatic cables, documentaries, videos, and news articles. The authors also said they interviewed more than 250 witnesses.
France “blind” to preparations for genocide
The Rwandan report comes less than a month after a French report, commissioned;by;President Macron, concluded that French authorities had;been “blind” to the preparations for the genocide.
The French report acknowledges that authorities reacted too slowly to appreciate the extent of the killings to respond to them. It adds that France had “heavy and overwhelming responsibilities” by not responding to the drift that led to the slaughter that killed mainly ethnic Tutsis and the moderate Hutus who tried to protect them.
Experts say the two reports, with their extensive even if different details, could mark a turning point in relations between the two countries.
Speaking in an interview, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Vincent Biruta disclosed that Rwanda is “ready” for a “new relationship” with France.
“Maybe the most important thing in this process is that those two commissions have analyzed the historical facts, have analyzed the archives which were made available to them and have come to a common understanding of that past. From there we can build this strong relationship.”
Analysts say the “new relationship” could also be boosted by the Rwanda reports’ conclusion that there was “no evidence that French officials or personnel participated directly in the killing of Tutsi during that period”.
This finding echoes the conclusion of the French report that cleared France of complicity in the massacres.
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