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France ‘bears significant responsibility’ for enabling 1994 Rwanda genocide: Report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Photos of victims of the Rwanda genocide are hung on a wall inside the Gisozi memorial in Kigali, the country’s capital. (File by Reuters)

France “bears significant responsibility” for enabling the 1994 Rwanda genocide, according to an inquiry commissioned by Kigali, but it has refused to acknowledge its role in the mass murder.

The extensive 600-page report ordered in 2017 brands France a “collaborator” of the extremist Hutu regime that orchestrated the massacre of some 800,000 people in the east-central African nation.

The report by US law firm Levy Firestone Muse, importantly, rejects the findings of a commission set up by the French government that said France was “blind” to preparations of the pogrom.

The Muse report says France knew genocide was looming in Rwanda but remained “unwavering in its support” of its Rwandan allies, even when the ethnic cleansing of Tutsi minority was clear.

“It is our conclusion that the French government bears significant responsibility for enabling a foreseeable genocide,” notes the report that is based on millions of pages of documents and testimonies of more than 250 witnesses. 

The genocide that took place between April and July of 1994 was triggered by the killing of Rwanda's Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana, a close ally of Paris, whose plane was shot down over Kigali.

Habyarimana’s death triggered 100 days of widespread violence in the African country, perpetrated mainly by Hutus against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The attackers seized control of Rwanda after driving out the 40,000-strong Hutu army and forcing more than two million civilian Hutus into exile in Burundi, Tanzania and Congo.

France has long been accused of not doing enough to prevent the mass slaughter, which has led to strained ties between the two countries, who continue to be at loggerheads.

The French-government commissioned inquiry report, which was released last month, concluded that France bore “overwhelming responsibilities” over the genocide and acknowledged a “failure” on its part, but stopped short of accusing France of complicity in the genocide.

But Muse report lays the blame squarely on France, saying the French government report failed to explain what Paris was responsible for, and erred in concluding that it “remained blind” to the genocide.

“The French government was neither blind nor unconscious about the foreseeable genocide,” the report notes, pointing to French complicity in the appalling pogrom.

The Muse report says nobody worked closer with Habyarimana than France under then leader Francois Mitterrand, who was primarily responsible for “reckless enabling” of the genocide.

The report further notes that France provided critical military and political support to the regime to protect its own strategic interests in Africa and ignored internal warnings of a looming slaughter.

“Only the French government was an indispensable collaborator in building the institutions that would become instruments of the genocide. No other foreign government both knew the dangers posed by Rwandan extremists and enabled those extremists...” the report states.

The French government's role, it states, was “singular” and yet it has “not acknowledged that role or atoned for it.”

It also accuses France of concealing documents, obstructing justice and spreading falsehoods about the genocide in a deliberate campaign to “bury its past in Rwanda”.

“The cover-up continues even to the present,” the report adds, saying French authorities refused to cooperate with their investigation or hand over critical documents pertinent to it.

Rwandans for too long “have watched the French government avoid the truth and fail to acknowledge its role and responsibility”, it stated.


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