The Government has welcomed with caution French President Francois Hollande’s order for the declassification of documents in the presidential archives relating to Rwanda between 1990 and 1995.
“The Franco-Rwanda political, diplomatic and military relationship from 1990-1995 period has been a tightly guarded domain,” Justice minister Johnston Busingye told The New Times yesterday.
He added: “Perhaps the goings-on at the time will finally be opened up and will shed light on the many dark and grey questions still unaddressed. One only hopes that the declassification is total.”
Tuesday’s announcement came exactly 21 years since the beginning of the 100 days of unprecedented killing spree and seven years after a Rwandan inquiry established a significant role played by French political and military leaders in setting the stage and execution of the Genocide.
In 2008, a special probe commission released a 500-page report that implicated 33 senior French political and military figures, including the late president Francois Mitterrand and three former prime ministers in the tragedy that befell Rwanda more than two decades ago.
Now information from Paris indicates that the documents, which include communication between diplomatic and military advisers, among other officials, as well as minutes from ministerial and defence meetings will be available to both researchers and victims’ associations.
France has rejected the accusations it played a key part in the Genocide, the worst ever recorded.
France, however, remains a safe haven for many key Genocide fugitives with over 20 suspects indicted by the National Public Prosecutions Authority currently said to be living in different parts of the country.
According to the Prosecutor General, Richard Muhumuza, the declassification could pave way for several other indictments, saying that the documents, if released in their entirety, could provide vital information on the planning of the Genocide.
“It’s a welcome development that might shed further light on what happened during the Genocide period. It may even lead to further investigations of certain key personalities and institutions, depending on the contents of the classified documents,” said Muhumuza.
The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against the Genocide, Dr Jean Damascene Bizimana, said that more attention should be paid to the contents of the declassified documents.
During a visit to Rwanda in 2010, then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, fell just short of making an apology to Rwandans for his country’s role in Rwanda’s darkest chapter in history, but acknowledged that Paris made “serious errors of judgment” in the days that preceded and during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Hollande’s announcement came just days after a group of mostly youthful French activists wrote him a letter demanding that his government should release vital information with regard to France’s alleged role in the Genocide to facilitate the healing process.