The National Public Prosecutions Authority (NPPA) has opened a criminal inquiry into cases of 20 French officials linked to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda – which could result into criminal charges.
Prosecution has not released the names of the people who are subject of the criminal investigation, but a dossier recently published by the National Commission for the Fight Against the Genocide (CNLG) pinned several top officials from the French diplomatic and military circles on varying roles in the preparation and execution of the Genocide that claimed the lives of at least a million people.
“The inquiry for now is focused on 20 individuals whom, according to information gathered so far, are required by the prosecution authority to explain or provide clarity on allegations against them to enable the authority to make conclusions whether the concerned individuals should be formally charged or not,” a statement released by the NPPA yesterday, reads in part.
The CNLG document exposed the role of French ambassadors who were accredited to Rwanda at different periods between 1990 and 1994, and several military officers – including the French top brass at the time – and their alleged role in the Genocide that was committed between April 7-July 3, 1994.
The statement from prosecution, signed by Prosecutor-General Richard Muhumuza, stated that depending on the outcome of their investigations, other French government officials might be required to come forth besides the 20.
“The relevant French Government authorities have been formally engaged. The Office of the Prosecutor General expects that reciprocal judicial cooperation will be availed throughout this inquiry by the relevant French Government agencies and authorities,” the statement adds.
Speaking to The New Times, a source from NPPA stated that the inquiry will mostly be conducted in France given that most of those implicated were officials with the French government. It added that the successfulness of the process will largely depend on the level of cooperation they will get from their French counterparts.
CNLG implicated 22 military officers, including top generals before and during the Genocide, as well diplomats Georges Martres and Jean-Michel Marlaud, who were French ambassadors to Rwanda between 1990 and 1994.
A special Rwandan probe conducted in 2009 to ascertain the role of France in the Genocide against the Tutsi concluded that there was sufficient evidence to bring criminal proceedings against 33 French officials over varied roles in the Genocide.
Several witness accounts have pinned the French establishment on preparatory activities in the build up to the Genocide in 1994, including training and arming of the pro-government Interahamwe militia with knowledge that the group was being prepared to commit the killings.
Paris was a key ally of the Rwandan government that committed the Genocide, before it was defeated by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).
But French civilian and military officials are also linked to the killings proper as well as interventions designed to shield the perpetrators and the entire genocidal machinery from the advancing RPF forces, creating a corridor along the western border for their exodus into DR Congo.
At the height of the Genocide, the French secured the green light from the United Nations to deploy a “humanitarian military mission”, dubbed Operation Tourquoise.
During this mission, French officers instead went on rampage to abet the Genocide, especially in the western and southern parts of Rwanda and as the forces of the RPF forces closed in on the marauding militia, the French troops provided them with an escape corridor to DR Congo, from where they later regrouped and launched military offensives against Rwanda with home to regain power.
Remnants of the genocidal forces remain active in DR Congo, under the French acronym, FDLR.