Paris clears itself of Rwanda killings

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A PARLIAMENTARY inquiry yesterday cleared France of any direct complicity in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, in which 800,000 people are thought to have been killed.

A nine-month investigation by a parliamentary committee, the first of its kind, criticised the authorities for blindly supporting the Hutu- led government and armed forces of Rwanda before the massacres began. But France was "in no way involved", actively or passively, in the mass murder of the minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus which followed the assassination of Rwanda's Hutu president in April 1994.

"The first point that should be recalled is that those who killed Rwandans were other Rwandans," the report said.

The French MPs say the wider blame for the slaughter, the first officially recognised genocide since the Holocaust, must rest with the international community as a whole, and especially the US. The report says scores of thousands of lives could have been saved by the deployment of a United Nations peace-keeping force, but action was blocked by Washington, which was numbed by the failure of its intervention in Somalia the previous year.

The inquiry's result will be a disappointment, but no surprise, to those inside and outside France who pushed for an investigation of its role in Rwanda before and after the massacres.

Articles in Le Figaro earlier this year said the French authorities were aware, or ought to have been aware, that the Hutu-dominated government and the French-trained Rwandan armed forces were preparing to slaughter the Tutsi community. The articles also claimed Paris continued to supply arms to the government in Kigali after the massacres began.

It was also claimed that the then French president, Francois Mitterrand, operated a clandestine Rwandan policy in the early 1990s. Although France was publicly committed to peace negotiations between the two Rwandan ethnic, or social, groups, Mr Mitterrand was deeply suspicious of the Tutsi rebel leaders, who were based in neighbouring Uganda. Since they had lived mostly in exile, speaking English, under Ugandan and American influence, he believed they posed a threat to French interests and the survival of the French language in south-central Africa.

The report of the parliamentary inquiry accepted this argument and condemned the "institutional dysfunctions" in the then French government. It said France found itself "trapped by its own [pro-Hutu, anti-Tutsi] strategy." As a result, Paris allowed itself to be manipulated by the extremists in power in Kigali, instead of pressuring them to adopt a more pacific approach.

But the report says these criticisms do not support the "unacceptable accusation" that France was complicit in the genocide.

r A rebel faction aiming to take over the anti-immigrant National Front said it would hold an extraordinary congress in Marignane, near Marseilles, on 24 January to confirm its split from the party leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen. Bruno Megret, the technocrat battling to take power, says he has enough support within the Front to have Mr Le Pen voted out.

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