The Rwandan government has accused France of having had a “significant” responsibility for “enabling a foreseeable genocide” in the 1994 genocide where an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered, according to a report that was commissioned by the Central African country.
The report which was released on Monday, comes amid efforts by Rwanda to document the role of French authorities before, during and after the genocide, which are parts of the steps taken by France’s President Emmanuel Macron to improve relations with the country.
The 600-page report says that France “did nothing to stop” the massacres in April and May 1994, and in the years after the genocide, tried to cover up its role and even offered protection to some perpetrators.
The report which was presented to Rwanda’s Cabinet concluded that in years leading up to the genocide, former French President Francois Mitterrand and his administration had knowledge of preparations for the massacres, yet kept supporting the government of then Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana despite the “warning signs.”
“The French government was neither blind nor unconscious about the foreseeable genocide,” the report stressed.
The Rwandan report comes less than a month after a French report, commissioned by Macron, concluded that French authorities had been “blind” to the preparations for genocide and then reacted too slowly to appreciate the extent of the killings and to respond to them.
Part of the report reads:
“In the years before the genocide, French officials armed, advised, trained, equipped, and protected the Rwandan government, heedless of the Habyarimana regime’s commitment to the dehumanisation and, ultimately, the destruction and death of Tutsis in Rwanda.”
It concluded that France had “heavy and overwhelming responsibilities” by not responding to the drift that led to the slaughter that killed mainly ethnic Tutsis and the moderate Hutus who tried to protect them.
The two reports, with their extensive details, could mark a turning point in relations between the two countries.
While presenting the report, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Vincent Biruta said the country of 13 million people is “ready” for a “new relationship” with France.
“Maybe the most important thing in this process is that those two commissions have analysed the historical facts, have analysed the archives which were made available to them and have come to a common understanding of that past. From there we can build this strong relationship,” he said.
The Rwandan report, commissioned in 2017 from the Washington law firm of Levy Firestone Muse, is based on a wide range of documentary sources from governments, non-governmental organisations and academics including diplomatic cables, documentaries, videos and news articles.
The authors also said they interviewed more than 250 witnesses.