“France had all the means to stop this genocidal process in Rwanda”

“France had all the means to stop this genocidal process in Rwanda”

Vincent Duclert, historian, led the French commission which pointed out the responsibility of the Mitterrand regime in this tragedy.

On April 6, 1994, Rwandan President Habyarimana's plane was shot down shortly before landing in Kigali. A few hours later, the massacres begin. For three months, hundreds of thousands of Rwandans, mainly Tutsi but also Hutu who did not adhere to the ideology of the extremist Rwandan regime, were systematically massacred under the eyes of an international community which for a long time pretended to consider this genocide. as “simple” inter-ethnic massacres.

Ten Belgian paratroopers will be assassinated at camp Kigali. For hours, these soldiers defended themselves, withdrawn, in the Rwandan capital, in a small building which still shows today the countless bullet holes which left no chance for these ten peacekeepers who were never rescued while a UN camp was located not far away.

Thirty years later, this last genocide of the 20th century still raises many questions about failings and even a certain form of international complicity.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron tasked a commission of experts in 2019 with examining possible French responsibilities, at the highest level, in this genocide. The presidency of this research commission on “France, Rwanda and the Tutsi genocide” was entrusted to Vincent Duclert, historian specializing in genocides and researcher at the Raymond Aron Center for Sociological and Political Studies (CESPRA). This team of researchers was able to have accreditations to access the heart of the state archives. In two years, they gathered a wealth of information which resulted in a voluminous report which concluded “heavy and overwhelming responsibilities” of France in this genocide.

The blindness of the Élysée

A report which was presented by President Macron to his Rwandan counterpart in May 2021. Today three years later, Vincent Duclert publishes a book France facing the Tutsi genocide (Tallandier) in which he goes further than the initial report. “I continued the work”, explains the historian. “After finalizing the report, I still had documents to work with. Certainly, I no longer had the authorization to access national defense secrets but there were still documents to study and I also worked on numerous testimonies”.

This 600-page work of great scientific rigor leaves no doubt about the role of French President François Mitterrand in what led to the 1994 genocide.We knew that France was involved, we did not know exactly at what level, explains Vincent Duclert. What we show in the report is that there were a lot of alerts coming from state agents, the military. There are also alerts coming from the Belgian side which are very interesting. In 2019, we knew that the reality of this involvement was not at all what had been presented for 25 years, that is to say that France had no responsibility for what happened.

By continuing his research, Vincent Duclert will further highlight the personal weight of President François Mitterrand in what would lead to the Rwandan tragedy. “I have no personal animosity against Mitterrandwarns the researcher whose work has not escaped criticism from those close to the former socialist president. These are simply facts that I can document. We do not attribute intentions to actors if these intentions are not documented and we document all the facts through first-hand sources”he insists.

Mitterrand alone in charge

The documents, the testimonies all converge towards the Élysée which did not hesitate to break the laws to give itself the means to defend the Habyarimana regime at all costs, because it thinks that it is threatened from the outside, because he thinks that he is thus defending a certain greatness of the Francophonie, while strengthening the weight of France in the very English-speaking east of Africa and in countries, Rwanda and Burundi, which are not former French colonies. “If the overwhelming responsibilities converge on the Élysée it is because Mitterrand gives the orders. Rwanda is an ultra-reserved domain, continues Vincent Duclert in light of the countless information analyzed in the pages of this work. This is a file that François Mitterrand deals with very, very closely, particularly because he has very personal relations with President Habyarimana. His son, Jean-Christophe, who was an Africa advisor, is close to Jean-Pierre Habyarimana, the son of the Rwandan president. François Mitterrand decides and asks his services at the Élysée, the General Staff, the particular General Staff, the African cell, the Secretary General of the Élysée Hubert Vedrine to carry out his orders. The Élysée is transformed into a sort of super-ministry for Rwanda without any control. On the contrary, he tries to repel all divergent opinions, by not taking into account all the warnings, in particular on the risk of genocide, on the fact that the French armed forces can find themselves in a sort of co-belligerence with the army Rwanda against an enemy, the RPF, which is not an external enemy. The FPR is an internal movement in exile which is not an exclusively Tutsi movement. It is first of all political. There are Tutsi but also opposition Hutu. All these alerts are brushed aside, those responsible are dismissed. When I talk about the great scandal of the Fifth Republic, it is completely justified, there is a compromise of the institutions, there are acts of illegality with regard to the constitution”.

To justify this blindness of power, the author mentions “the vertigo of the imperialism of a Françafrique, of an African president, François Mitterrand”who took “special passion” for this continent. A passion which was also manipulated by a Rwandan regime which presented itself as the good student long awaited by the head of state who had delivered the La Baule speech in June 1990. A speech which was to define the contours of a new relationship between France and Africa after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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