By Spy Uganda Correspondent
The French government bears “significant” responsibility for “enabling a foreseeable genocide,” a report commissioned by the Rwandan government concludes about France’s role before and during the horror in which an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered in 1994.
The report comes amid efforts by Rwanda to document the role of French authorities before, during, and after the genocide, part of the steps taken by France’s President Emmanuel Macron to improve relations with the central African country.
The 600-page report says that France “did nothing to stop” the massacres, in April and May 1994, and in the years after the genocide tried to cover up its role and even offered protection to some perpetrators.
It was made on Monday after its formal presentation to Rwanda’s Cabinet.
It concludes that in years leading up to the genocide, former French President Francois Mitterrand and his administration had knowledge of preparations for the massacres — yet kept supporting the government of then-Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana despite the “warning signs.”
“The French government was neither blind nor unconscious about the foreseeable genocide,” the authors stress.
The Rwandan report comes less than a month after a French report, commissioned by Macron, concluded that French authorities had been “blind” to the preparations for genocide and then reacted too slowly to appreciate the extent of the killings and to respond to them. It concluded 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. Groups of extremist Hutus carried out the killings.
The two reports, with their extensive even if different details, could mark a turning point in relations between the two countries.
Macron is considering travelling to Rwanda in the coming months, said the official, who spoke anonymously in accordance with the French presidency’s policies.
The Rwandan report, commissioned in 2017 from the Washington law firm of Levy Firestone Muse, 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.
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 report charges.
French authorities at the time pursued “France’s own interests, in particular the reinforcement and expansion of France’s power and influence in Africa.”
On April 7, 2021, the day of commemoration of the genocide, Macron announced the decision to declassify and make accessible to the public the archives from 1990 to 1994 that belong to the French president and prime minister’s offices.
President Paul Kagame of Rwanda praised the report commissioned by Macron as “a good thing,” welcoming efforts in Paris to “move forward with a good understanding of what happened.”
Félicien Kabuga, a Rwandan long wanted for his alleged role in supplying machetes to the killers, was arrested outside Paris last May.
And in July an appeals court in Paris upheld a decision to end a years-long investigation into the plane crash that killed Habyarimana and set off the genocide. That probe aggravated Rwanda’s government because it targeted several people close to Kagame for their alleged role, charges they denied.
Last week, a Rwandan priest was arrested in France for his alleged role in the genocide, which he denied.
Macron’s office said the French government is committed to providing the “necessary means” to allow the “intensification” of legal proceedings against alleged perpetrators of the genocide. Activists estimate more than 100 of them are believed to live on French territory.