When Rwanda’s history was re-written in France

An international symposium organised by Democraties, a France-based organisation took place Monday in Paris under the theme “The Rwandan Tragedy: The true actors.” At the mere look of the various discussants lined up for the event, one need not have bothered to attend to arrive at the intended purpose, which is indeed confirmed by their subsequent presentations. 
Eddy Kalisa Nyarwaya (L) and Justin Nyanshwa. (Courtesy)
Eddy Kalisa Nyarwaya (L) and Justin Nyanshwa. (Courtesy)

An international symposium organised by Democraties, a France-based organisation took place Monday in Paris under the theme “The Rwandan Tragedy: The true actors.”

At the mere look of the various discussants lined up for the event, one need not have bothered to attend to arrive at the intended purpose, which is indeed confirmed by their subsequent presentations. 

One of the speakers was Gen Jean-Claude Lafourcade, who commanded the infamous Operation Turquoise, whose deeds especially in the South western part of the country are well documented.

Operation Turquoise, which was sanctioned by the United Nations to restore peace in Rwanda, instead facilitated the killings in some part of the country and mainly created an escape corridor for the militiamen.

Another speaker is Col Luc Marchal, who deputised Gen Romeo Dallaire as commander of UNAMIR, heading the Kigali sector and his topic does not need any explanation: The Conquest of Power by Paul Kagame and the US Role. 

Also lined up was Prof. Reyntjens Filip of the University of Antwerp, whose topic is: The victors’ justice, Gacaca and the ICTR. Reyntjens worked for Habyarimana’s regime since 1976 and in his 1999 book, The Conspiracy of Silence, he presented a new theory that there was double genocide in Rwanda. 

The caliber of the organisers, the choice of speakers and venue make this symposium suspicious and exposes France’s role in Rwanda politics. The venue, Luxembourg Palace (Palais du Luxembourg - Salle Monnerville), is the seat of the French Senate.

Luxembourg was declared a National Palace in 1791, hence becoming home to the Directoire, the House of Peers (1814-1848) and the Senate of the third Republic from 1879. 

However, the venue of Paris Peace Conference (July 29- October 15, 1946) on April 1, 2014 welcomed a symposium to rewrite Rwandan history and promote divisions and genocide ideology on eve of the 20th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

Since independence in 1962, France supported successive regimes in Rwanda, particularly Habyarimana’s that it supplied with weapons, instructors and military advisors until its collapse in July 1994 even when Rwandans faced human rights violation such as the October 1990 killings in Bugesera and Kibirira.

As published by Prof. Gregory H. Stanton in the Journal of African Conflicts and Peace Studies of September 2009, after the RPF invasion in October 1990, the Rwandan Armed Forces (Forces Armées Rwandaises or FAR) expanded overnight from 5,000 to 28,000 with France’s help.  

French against the RPF

According to a report by journalist Mike Chimenti of The Standard newspaper of January 20, 2014, the French deployed 1,100 soldiers against the RPF during the early stages of the war. 

At the same time, French instructors trained recruits to boost the size of FAR. French involvement in the civil war on the side of Habyarimana’s regime is further shown by the appointment of Lt. Col. Jean-Jacques Maurin in April 1992 as advisor to FAR chief of staff. This effectively placed him in control of the FAR. 

Training Interahamwe

The Interahamwe militia benefited from Habyarimana’s personal support through weapons, uniforms and training from government resources supplied by France. By February of 1993, the French government was sending more than 20 tonnes of arms to Rwanda per day—and this was later used by Interahamwe to massacre the Tutsi.

In February 1993, the MRND began discussing creation of ‘Organization of Civilian Self Defence’ to protect the country if the army failed to stop the RPF advance.

Proof for this is based on the fact that Operation Turquoise did not disarm Interahamwe who operated in these zones freely, intimidating moderate Hutus and killing the Tutsi. 

Bruguiere allegations

Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the first vice-president of the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris, masterminded the issuance of international arrest warrants against nine RDF officers alleging that they are the ones who shot down the aircraft that killed Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. 

In March 2007, Bruguiere joined politics campaigning for former president Nicolas Sarkozy. He then presented himself in senatorial elections as candidate of Sarkozy’s UMP party but defeated. This rapid shift, just one year after delivering the arrest warrants, shows how much he was trying to attract sympathy from the French public.

We conclude this analysis by noting that relations between France and Rwanda will never take off in earnest as long as the past continues to define the way diplomacy and businesses are managed. 

The behavior of some French citizens and the attitude of France vis-à-vis the affairs concerning Rwanda shows that the sky is still dark.     

Justin Nyanshwa is an International Relations and Conflict-Resolution Researcher in the Great Lakes Region of Africa. 

Eddy Kalisa Nyarwaya is a Rwanda-based International Politics Writer and Analyst. 

 

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