Rwanda : An occasional French memory


(Translated by EOIN DOWNEY)

French president François Mitterrand greets Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana in Paris on October 18, 1990 PHOTO/Gulf News

A longtime ‘top-secret’ document is disputing the theory of large sections of French political and judicial authorities regarding the attack on then Rwandan President, Juvénal Habyarimana on 6th April 1994.

On April 7th 1994, the Rwandan capital began to lose control of the genocide. One million martyrs in one hundred days and some twenty-five years later, many questions remain unanswered. These questions are centered around the role played by France both before and during the genocide, as well as during the civil war (October 1990 to August 1994). On the morning of 7th April, the targeted murders continue. The presidential guard assassinated two opposition candidates for the presidency of the transition assembly. The President of the constitutional court, the first Hutu minister of the transition government (Agathe Uwilingiyimana) and ten Belgian peacekeepers assigned to his protection are all lynched. The political crimes are immediately drowned in a madness of ‘ethnic’ bloodshed, which in three months will result in the deaths of one million Tutsi. The evening before, the plane of the Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana was struck by two missiles when arriving in Kigali, a precursor to the massacres.

Both racist militias and the presidential guard stood visibly ready for weeks. Talks for the creation of a temporary government began simultaneously and took place in the French embassy in Rwanda, a memory which Paris would rather forget. How can they be opposed to questions regarding Operation Turquoise for example, which theoretically consisted of a humanitarian operation beginning in June 1994? It is what it is and there is no point in arguing! The response is the same for the other documents, such as those relating to the attack against the presidential plane. As the code of silence comes with a risk that the tables could be turned on those who abide by it at a later time, it is necessary to occasionally provide a gesture of good faith, such as the opening of a sprinkling of carefully selected top secret documents. The declassification remains sketchy but gives the effect of making a stance without really shining a light on the heart of the problems. Limited as it is, it can however have cruel effects. An example includes letters addressed on June 15th 1998 by General Jean Rannou, the Air Force Chief of Staff to head of the ‘Rwanda’ committee to the cabinet of the Ministry of Defence General Mourgeon, which were declassified by decision number 009560 on October 9th from the Minister of Defence. A form dated 22nd September 1994, barely two months after the end of the genocide, appears in this document under the title, ‘Theory of the department on the responsabilities of the attack against the plane of President Habyarimana’

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