French accused of complicity in genocide that killed a million in Rwanda

An unprecedented public inquiry into France's role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda held hearings in Kigali last week, where the French army was accused of complicity in massacres of Tutsi.

The seven-person examining commission is hearing testimony from 20 survivors, some claiming serious human rights abuses, including rape and murder, by the French military.

The commission is also examining Operation Tur-quoise, the 1994French military intervention that was ostensibly aimed at saving Rwandan lives. Human rights groups in France claim French soldiers tricked thousands of Tutsi survivors out of hiding, and abandoned them to the Interahamwe militia. The three-month genocide claimed up to one million Tutsi victims.

Close links existed between France and Rwanda, the tiny African country ruled by a Hutu dictatorship for 20 years. France was its biggest supplier of heavy military equipment, and sent troops in 1990 to help repel a military offensive from Uganda by the largely Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front, (RPF), against the corrupt president, Juvenal Habyarimana.

During nearly three years of civil war, in some instances senior French officers took operational battlefield control. In 1993, an international peace agreement replaced the French with UN peacekeepers, to monitor creation of a power-sharing democracy.

For years, the French government denied any part in the genocide. Its own parliamentary enquiry in 1997, calling the genocide one of the greatest tragedies of the century, admitted only that France had underestimated the threat. But the enquiry did reveal that the former French president, François Mitterrand, had largely been responsible for French policy in Rwanda.

By 1994, the Rwandan army had become a "military protégé" of France. Before the genocide, 47 high-ranking French army and gendarmerie officers were with the Rwanda military. French officers were attached to the élite battalions, the Presidential Guard, the para-commandos and the reconnaissance battalion.

In April, 1994, French-trained officers from the Presidential Guard eliminated the pro-democracy and political opposition and French-trained soldiers from the para-commando and the reconnaissance battalion began killing anyone with a Tutsi identity card.

The Rwanda Commission has evidence that the French trained the Interahamwe, and French officers were in commando training centres, where torture was perpetrated, and where political opponents disappeared.Yet in meetings of the Security Council to decide UN policy on Rwanda, France had sat silent. Later, the then French ambassador to the UN, Jean-Bernard Mérimée, blamed the UK and US ambassadors for the international failure over Rwanda.

During the genocide, French diplomats told the UN many had died as civil war casualties, diverting attention from systematic massacres of civilians. France refused to allow the Council to invoke the 1948 Genocide Convention to try to stop the genocide.

Then after five weeks of murders, France launched its own military intervention, with Council blessing, to secure humanitarian areas for survivors and protect displaced people.This was Operation Turquoise.

The French did create a safe zone, but this allowed the political, military and administrative leadership of the genocide to flee. Although the RPF won the civil war, the national treasury, the killers and 37,000 troops moved to Zaire (now the DRC). This is why there are so many fugitive genocidaires; the ringleaders of the genocide took sanctuary in other countries, notably France and Belgium, where they enjoy protection today.

Linda Melvern is the author of 'Conspiracy to Murder: The Rwandan Genocide' (Verso 2006, paperback)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy as ECB finally wield the axe
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
news... you won't believe how bad their skills were
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas