Andrew Wallis's analysis of France's role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda is furiously hard-hitting and thoroughly researched. With France having embarked on a new round of revisionism, it leaves you wondering whether Paris will ever acknowledge its responsibility. The nature of Rwanda's genocide - the killing of up to 937,000 Tutsis in 100 days - is that it is incomprehensible. Equally true, but hard to come to terms with, is Wallis's central thesis: that France's frantic military activity in Rwanda in the early 1990s was motivated by a visceral fear of seeing the country "fall" under "Anglo-Saxon" domination.
In 1962, the French people voted to let go of their colonies. But the political elite never rescinded control. They created "la Françafrique": an unofficial cell in the Elysée Palace, answerable to no one and still in existence. Rwanda was a Belgian colony, but its Hutu leader, Juvenal Habyarimana, qualified for membership of la Françafrique because he was French-speaking and his country bordered English-speaking Uganda. After earlier massacres, many Rwandan Tutsis had fled to Uganda. There, they supported Yoweri Museveni's battle for power. In 1990, Paul Kagame led the refugees back into Rwanda. Under French logic, the Tutsis were the enemy of a friendly state.
When Habyarimana asked France for support against Kagame's Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), Mitterrand responded instantly. By February 1992, France was delivering several tons of ammunition to the Forces Armées du Rwanda (FAR) every day. French troops manned roadblocks at which Tutsis were led off for slaughter. Peace talks led to a power-sharing solution which infuriated extremist Hutus. On 6 April 1994, Habyarimana's jet was shot down, which many believe triggered the genocide. The French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière has now claimed it was shot down by the RPF and that, consequently, Kagame should face a tribunal for sparking the genocide.
Wallis produces ample evidence that the genocide was planned long before April. His book is needed as a record but it is not enough. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha continues to be hamstrung by resistance from Kigali and Paris. A Rwandan commission of enquiry on the French role resumes hearings this week. The Rwandan genocide was not a little colonial war, and Wallis's book should be read by our politicians. They should not let France get away with this one.Reuse content