The role of France in Rwanda before and during the genocide of 1994 has been investigated before. Many commentators attributed France’s role in Rwanda in the early 1990s to its socialist President Francois Mitterrand who was stuck in the de Gaulle’s post Second World War era, neo-colonialism, the need to fend off ‘Anglo-Saxon encroachments’ against its sphere of influence and need to protect governments of its African allies.
It was reported that conservative Africanists in Paris were wary of a ‘new Fashoda’, an incident in 1898 when the French “sold out” and conceded in Sudan to the British strategic influence over the colonized African continent. Others have argued that Rwanda was a conduit for France’s clandestine arms sales, including use of fraudulent end user certificates, to Iran, Syria and the Middle-East in general under the watchful eye of Jean Christopher Mitterrand.
During his four-hour-visit in February 2010, the first by a French president to visit Rwanda since the genocide, Nicolas Sarkozy admitted that France made “mistakes” and was afflicted by ‘a form of blindness when we failed to discern the genocidal dimension’ of the Habyarimana regime.
A casual examination of the 23 year period since, however, shows a continuing covert war waged by or on behalf of successive French governments against Rwanda since the genocide against the Tutsis.
At a time when the then government of Rwanda whose army, gendarme and allied militia that carried out the genocide was on the brink of defeat under military pressure from Paul Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA), France using cover of United Nations Security Council resolution 929 that allowed it to intervene in Rwanda under chapter VII, started Operation Tourquoise on 22 June 1994 in the west and southwest Rwanda.
According to a REPORT OF AN ‘INDEPENDENT COMMISSION’ TO ESTABLISH THE ROLE OF FRANCE IN THE 1994 RWANDAN GENOCIDE, The French army deployed in DR Congolese cities of Goma, Bukavu and Kisangani: 2,550 French troops, 100 armored personnel carriers, 10 helicopters, a battery of 120 mm mortars, six C-130 Hecules, nine C-160 Transall, a Falcon-20, a Boeing-747, seventeen Antonov-124 Condor, Illyshin II-76 and a communications CASA-235.
At Kisangani in northern DRC there were four Jaguar tactical support planes brought in from Central African Republic’s Bangui airport, two C-135F in flight supply planes, four Mirage-F1 CT tactical support planes and four Mirage F1-CR reconnaissance planes flown in from Reims.
This armada could not have been for peace keeping but offensive purposes to ‘keep alive the Genocidal government in the hope that it would deny the RPF total victory and international recognition’. The operation was however late and the genocidal regime collapsed all the same.
The government that was installed in the wake of the genocide against the Tutsis was bankrupt because the government of the genocidaires had not only overspent the national coffers; it had looted everything of value before fleeing to Zaire.
There was no money for the burial of the dead, health of the living and resettlement of internally displaced persons. Since July 1994, the international community had spent approximately U.S. $2.5 billion on the Rwandan refugee camps in Zaire and Tanzania, while devoting about U.S. $572 million to programs in Rwanda itself.
Five million Rwandans watched as billions worth of aid was distributed by more than one hundred NGOs to less than two million refugees in camps in Zaire, Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda. Meanwhile Rwanda struggled to treat the wounded and bury the dead.
The World Bank earmarked $35 million to Rwanda but, as a condition, the latter had to pay $4.5 million in arrears first, which they could not raise. When the European Union pledged a $200 million assistance package to Rwanda, France vetoed it.
The then French cooperation minister Bernard Debré insisted that the new ‘Anglophone government “from Uganda”’ in power in Rwanda; allow refugees back, create a healthy judicial system, and set a date for elections before aid could be released.
In September 1994, when president Pasteur Bizimungu got up to speak at international conference of 150 delegates at the Hague called to discuss reconciliation and rehabilitation in Rwanda, the French ambassador publicly walked out as a sign of hostility.
On April 6, the day Habyarimana’s plane was shot down; Mitterrand had walked into the office of Hubert Védrine, his foreign affairs advisor, and asked: “Have you heard? It is terrible. They are going to massacre each other.”
At the height of the genocide Mitterrand had said, ‘In such countries, genocide is not too important’. Mitterrand’s chief adviser on Africa, Bruno Delaye, conceded that the “Genocide Perpetrators” had done terrible things, but he insisted that it was because they were fighting for their lives. It was regrettable, but that was the way Africans were.
Rwanda was not invited to the November 1994 Franco-African summit at Biarritz which took place less than four months after the end of the genocide. French president François Mitterrand observed during the summit that, “one cannot expect the impossible from France, which is so alone, when local chiefs decide to…settle their quarrels with bayonets and machetes.
After all, it is their country”. The planned attempt to wipe out unarmed Tutsis in Rwanda was being equated to local chiefs settling quarrels. France moreover had intervened militarily two times in Rwanda in the previous four years to prop-up a murderous regime and had made 34 interventions to suppress African agitations against oppressive dictatorships in Africa between 1962 and 1995.
Accusation of ‘double’ or ‘counter’ genocide against the post-genocide Rwanda Army were made first by then French foreign minister Alain Juppé in reference to events in Rwanda on June 16, 1994 when he wrote in the French Newspaper Libération about “genocides” in Rwanda. Gérard Prunier reported that when confronted about the genocide by a journalist, Mitterrand replied: “The genocide or genocides? I don’t know what one should say,” thereby setting a double genocide narrative on Rwanda.
When rebels in Zaire (DR Congo) dismantled the Former Rwanda army structure and allied extremist groups such as INTERAHAMWE that had held millions of Rwandans hostage in refugee camps, France frantically cajoled the UN Security council to intervene arguing that the refugees would be massacred in revenge killings when in fact many refugees had simply walked home from the refugees.
The effort was geared at attempting to prop up the imminent rout of defeated former Rwanda army and allied Mobutu kleptocracy. Although paid for by Kuwait, European mercenaries fighting to defend Mobutu were recruited by French government agents.
In August 2010 the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights issued the “Report of the Mapping Exercise documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003” which singled Rwanda army of a “number of inculpatory elements that, if proven before a competent court, could be characterized as crimes of genocide”.
What the report “based on the analysis of more than 1500 documents, interviews with about 1280 witnesses” did was legitimize hitherto polemic but discredited accusations by extremists and their supporters towards General Paul Kagame and the RPA.
The report added a new dimension, however, when its authors to ensure that the accusation of “genocide” against RPA was not ‘watered down’ before its official publication found it necessary to ‘leak’ the report giving credence to reports that the aim of the ‘mapping exercise’ was to ‘equate Kagame’s group with the killers and blur the line of guilt’.
The authors chose, of all major international media, the French newspaper Le Monde of August 27, 2010 to ‘leak’ the accusations.
After the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, France become a transit for suspected genocide criminals to evade justice by funneling them from Zaire and processing them visas to the country before they proceeded to other European cities where they changed and acquired new identities. France turned down international arrest warrants issued by the UN’s ICTR mandated to seek justice after the genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda.
The country set precedent by refusing extradition requests from Rwanda insisting there would be no fair trial for suspected criminals which formed the basis for other countries to refuse similar extradition requests thereby stonewalling efforts for justice in Rwanda.
The planners and implementers of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda premised their scheme of defense on accusation that RPF/RPA shot Habyarimana’s plane and therefore Extremists/perpetrators were justified to carry out the genocide ‘in revenge’.
In November 2001 Charles Onana, a Cameroonian based in France published a book he titled “Les Secrets du génocide Rwandais” which essentially repeated French and genocide suspects’ accusations that deceased Rwandan president Habyarimana’s plane was shot down on Kagame’s orders. In an interview by Christine Bierre and Esther Abin on 18 October, 2002, Onana who had never set foot in Rwanda was quoted thus, “Today, it will appear that those who had proclaimed themselves the victims of a tragedy were in fact also the hangmen.”
Court proceedings against Onana by Kagame’s representatives in March 2002 were dismissed on technical grounds because under French law defamation lawsuits are filed no later than three months after the publication.
The proceedings however turned Onana into a star and as if on cue Abdul Ruzibiza published, “Rwanda: L’histoire Secrète”. In a “Statement by Ruzibiza Joshua Venuste Abdul” tendered in as exhibit DB136B by suspected genocidaires under trial at the UN ICTR, Ruzubiza states that, “My main objective is to allow those who will have the chance of reading this statement to know the naked truth on some of the aspects of the long voyage the RPF started but when it was about to liberate the country, it committed a mistake that led to the genocide”. French Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière extensively used Ruzibiza’s testimony in his 220-page report on investigations into the downing of Habyarimana’s plane. Bruguière accused president Kagame of giving direct orders for the rocket attack Habyarimana’s plane and afterwards indicted senior Rwandan army officers whose arrest warrants still stand though ignored by many countries.
On 19-11- 2008 Ruzibiza denied he was the author of the book and testimonies attributed to him. In reference to Bruguière he was quoted by the BBC as saying that, “I let him manipulate me.
He was desperate he had conducted an enquiry for five years and didn’t get any tangible information about the downing of that plane or that accident.( Bruguière) “needed someone to manipulate for political needs and aspirations … (France) tried to deny the genocide because they knew what their role was in the genocide.”
In fact Ruzubiza had been picked from the streets of Kampala (where he had spent time moving from embassy to another seeking for asylum) by the notorious Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), France’s external spy agency and told to own a book called “Rwanda: L’histoire Secrète”.
On 9/10/2010 French Newspaper Le Monde reported that based on WikiLeaks documents, Bruguière’s ‘independent investigations’ were in fact coordinated by the French Government.
The leaked documents showed that a senior French official in its foreign affairs ministry Francis Blondet confided that contrary to official line that Bruguière had exercised his judicial independence, the government of France had given him the ‘green light to issue the report’. Blondet said that France had wanted to reciprocate Rwanda’s taking steps to investigate France’s alleged involvement in the 1994 and its aftermath.
Judi Rever, a Canadian from Montreal, was recruited by DGSE’s director of intelligence Michel Lacarrière who introduced her to his boss Jacques Dewatre. In the wake of the overthrow of long-time-dictator Mobutu, Dewatre sent her to Zaire in 1997 under the guise of RFI to interview “Rwandan Genocidal Extremist refugees in the Congolese jungle”.
Like a superwoman, she interviewed the alleged ‘50 Hutu survivors of attacks by the Rwandan Patriotic Army’. How she could tell a Hutu from among Zaire’s 200 ethnic groups and 242 languages remains a mystery.
Like a Mossad Katsa working to preserve the Jewish state from annihilation; Rever has worked harder, to protect France and Francophonie community threatened in Canada and globally by Anglo-Saxons, by attacking and abusing the archetypal Francophonie and francophonie enemy Paul Kagame.
Collecting and publishing misinformation, accusations and propaganda by extremists, dissidents and genocide apologists that mainstream media had hitherto rejected, Judi Rever has given new life to their cause thanks to France’s DGSE.
In May 2011, the London Metropolitan Police Service warned two persons of Rwandan origin resident in the UK that “Reliable intelligence states that the Rwandan government poses an imminent threat to your life”
Although the Metropolitan Police Service will take whatever steps it can to minimize the risk, the police cannot protect you from this threat on a day-by-day, hour-by-hour basis”. This warning served extremists in their accusations that they were under threat of assassination from their government.
The threat from a “friendly country” as it emerged was in form of a hapless naturalized Belgian of Rwandan decent who was stopped in Folkestone, Kent and was later allowed to continue his business. What an unorthodox way to handle an “assassin’/ “imminent threat” to British citizens? The friendly country that was the source of ‘assassin plot’ was France through its feared DGSE.
Reports by French judge Marc Trevidic and assistant Nathalie Poux into the shooting down of Habyarimana’s plane in January 2012 -investigations that involved face-to-face interviews with key individuals, scientific study of the on-site clues surrounding the crash site and involved physical trips to Rwanda- indicated that the missiles that downed the plane were fired from Kanombe Military Barracks occupied by troops that carried out the genocide.
Bruguière’s investigation which began in 1998 and his indictments thereof have hung on the necks of Rwanda Officials like the albatross to the Ancient Mariner and whereas many countries disregard the indictments as politically/guilty motivated, the arrest of Col. Rose Kabuye in Germany in 2008 and Gen. Karenzi Karake in UK in 2015, shows the extent to which ‘Universal Jurisdiction’ can be abused.
Radio France International report of 10/10/2017 alleged, France had discovered a “New witness (who) links Kagame’s RPF to former Rwanda president’s killing.” The brand new witness is James Munyandinda, a deserter from the Rwandan army who reported that the used missiles were “SA-16 IGLA” and of Russian origin.
How a semi-illiterate could tell apart different missiles and manufactures’ nationality or Russian from Ukrainian or Kazakh remains is anybody’s guess. The implication is that far from over, the French ‘investigations’ which started in 1998 will go beyond their 20th anniversary next year and even beyond as long as the French government can use them as a weapon.
The Author is a Rwandan based scholar and senior political Analyst