KIGALI, 27 March 2021 – France acted “blind” as preparations were made ahead of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide in which one million people were killed , a new report says.
The victims, mostly members of the minority Tutsi ethnic group and moderate members of the majority Hutu group, were killed over a 100-day period from April to June 1994.
The 15-member Commission submitted its report Friday to French President Emmanuel Macron.
The report reached one major conclusion: it found no evidence of French complicity in the genocide.
Experts appointed by the Rwandan government studied the same issue and reached the exact opposite conclusion.
Rwandan experts pointed an accusing finger at France for complicity in the genocide – a charge which Paris has repeatedly said is without merit.
However, the French report, which Rwandese officials welcomed Friday, appears to almost fullly agree with the Rwandan government in concluding, among others, that France bears “heavy and overwhelming responsibilities” over the genocide.
French President at the time of the genocide, François Mitterrand, is blamed in the report for a “failure” of policy towards Rwanda.
Kigali on Friday said the report “represents an important step toward a common understanding of France’s role in the genocide against the Tutsi”.
The French government was one of the biggest partners of Rwanda at the time, providing political, economic, financial and military support to the Hutu-led regime of then Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.
It is the leader’s assassination, in a plane crash on 6 April 1994, that sparked the mass slaughters.
Current Rwandese President, Paul Kagame, a member of the Tutsi minority whose members the genocide sought to exterminate led an armed uprising under the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to unseat the remnants of Juvenal Habyarimana’s regime.
Mitterrand had close relationsships with Habyarimana.
Led by historian Vincent Duclert, the commission membership included experts on the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide during World War I and specialists on international criminal law.
Paris is publishing the findings of the commission after years of French official secrecy over links to the Hutus who ruled Rwanda in the lead up to and during the genocide.
The 15 members of the commission were given rare access to and studied French official files on the matter including military and intelligence archives, presidential and prime ministerial directives and diplomatic cables.
The French constitutional court in 2017 denied access to the archives shortly after French President Francois Hollande announced two years earlier that his government would declassify the files.
Rwandan officials have also blamed the United Nations, notably its peacekeeping division and the Security Council which did not authorize the deployment of French forces under Operation Turquoiseuntil 22 June 1994.
Kigali has always accused the French for arriving too late with help for hundreds of thousands of the victims.
The Rwandan government has promised the publication of its own report “the conclusions of which will complement and enrich those of the Duclert Commission”.