THE French prosecutor’s department has said that there were no grounds to pursue legal claims that France bore responsibility for enabling the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
On Monday, France’s top prosecutor, Remy Heitz, said in a statement that investigations carried out by French authorities could not prove any complicity by French troops in the killings, which were orchestrated by Rwanda’s Hutu-led government.
Ever since the genocide, critics of France’s role have said that then French President Francois Mitterrand failed to prevent the massacres or even supported the Hutu-led government.
Rwanda last month published a report in which it said that France was aware that genocide was being prepared in Rwanda ahead of the killings.
‘The French Government bears significant responsibility for enabling a foreseeable genocide,’ the Rwandan government said in its 600-page report, prepared by the US law firm Levy Firestone Muse and published on Rwanda’s main governmental website.
The Rwandan report followed the publication of a separate French report, released in March, that cleared France of complicity in the genocide — but found that “France has nonetheless long been involved with a regime that encouraged racist massacres.”
The 992-page French report, the result of a two-year investigation, said that France had been blinded by its colonial attitude to Africa to events leading up to the genocide and consequently bore ‘serious and overwhelming’ responsibility.
Over a three-month period in 1994 nearly 800,000 people lost their lives when Hutu extremists in Rwanda targeted minority ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus, in some cases slaughtering families in their homes and burning down churches with people inside.
The violence erupted after a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, was shot down on April 6, 1994.
The French report said that: ‘It adopted a binary pattern opposing, on the one hand, the Hutu friend, represented by President Habyarimana, and on the other hand, the enemy qualified as “Ugandan-Tutsi” to designate the RPF [Rwandan Patriotic Front].’
‘At the time of the genocide, [France] was slow to break with the interim government which was perpetrating it. (…) It reacted late with Operation Turquoise, which saved many lives, but not those of the vast majority of Tutsi in Rwanda, who were exterminated in the first weeks of the genocide,’ the report added. ‘Research, therefore, establishes a set of responsibilities, heavy and overwhelming.’
The Rwandan government has previously accused French officials of complicity, and French soldiers of rape and assassinations. The French government denied these claims, although former President Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledged ‘mistakes’ in 2010.