REPORT: National Independent Commission in charge of gathering evidence to show the involvement of the French Government in the Genocide perpetrated in Rwanda in 1994

France’s involvement during the genocide, before the Turquoise operation On the evening of 6 April, 1994, around 20 hours 30, President Habyarimana’s plane, back from Dar-es-Salaam where the latter had gone for an ultimate summit devoted to the Rwandan crisis, was shot down while landing at the Kanombe (Kigali) Airport.
IN CHARGE: The extent of France’s involvement in the 1994 genocide is incalculable as to the outside world they posed as a humanitarian force, when the reality on the ground was totally different.
IN CHARGE: The extent of France’s involvement in the 1994 genocide is incalculable as to the outside world they posed as a humanitarian force, when the reality on the ground was totally different.

I France’s involvement during the genocide, before the Turquoise operation

On the evening of 6 April, 1994, around 20 hours 30, President Habyarimana’s plane, back from Dar-es-Salaam where the latter had gone for an ultimate summit devoted to the Rwandan crisis, was shot down while landing at the Kanombe (Kigali) Airport.

Among its occupants, none survived. From that very evening, the soldiers of the presidential guard, the paratroopers battalion and the reconnaissance as well as the interahamwe militia erected barriers on all the main trunk roads and in several districts of the capital, and the killings started.

The following day, in the course of the day, the country learnt that the Prime Minister of the transition government and many of her ministers had been assassinated, and that massacres had begun targeting Hutu opponents and most particularly the Tutsis on the entire national territory.

Thus the announced genocide began, and it is in this context that France envisaged once again sending a military contingent to Rwanda. This military intervention that lasted from the 9 to the 12 April would be given the code name Amaryllis.

1.Official justification of the Amaryllis

The main justification given for the operation would be the evacuation of French nationals and foreigners. The operation would take place while the campaign of massacres of Tutsis became systematized in Kigali and would spread very quickly to the interior of the country, and France would decide officially and publicly not to do anything to stop the massacres.

1.1 Protection of the French, European nationals, and foreigners

The decision to help the French and other expatriates living in Rwanda was not taken until the assassination of President Habyarimana on 6 April, nor on the following day when the campaign of massacres started in Kigali, on 7 April and part of 8 April.

Political and military officials analyzed the situation first of all in order to be able to react at the opportune moment, and by so doing they gave priority to the FAR’s capacity or not of controlling the situation while facing the RPF.

On 7 April, Bruno Delaye observed in report of a meeting of the "crisis cell" established in the Elysée: "For the time being our nationals are not threatened and no evacuation is planned." General Quesnot was of the same opinion: "For the time being, French nationals (450 in Kigali) don’t seem to be threatened. Some isolated families have been rounded up near the Embassy."

President Mitterrand’s special chief of staff seemed to prioritize the theory according to which "the Rwandan armed forces would be capable of controlling the town by containing the RPF of eight hundred men and infiltrated elements", without however excluding the fact that the Rwandan army may be "incapable of holding the north of the country from where a new RPF offensive could come with a strong support of Ugandan logistic support".

In spite of the decision not to evacuate immediately, preparatory measures were taken, including setting up plans to protect and evacuate French and Belgian nationals in collaboration with the Belgian battalion working within the UNAMIR.

Furthermore, two battalions and a health unit were put on alert in Bangui, Libreville and Ndjamena. Considering the history of the French action in Rwanda, the attitude of wait and see advocated by the various French officials was accompanied by the wish not to put France in the limelight. "Matignon and the Quai d’Orsay would like, in this new Rwandan crisis which risks being more murderous, France not to be on the front line and limit our action to interventions at the UN so that the United Nations Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) may fulfill its security mission in Kigali (what it has not actually done to-date).

The decision to evacuate was taken on 8 April, towards 19 hours, when Ambassador Marlaud informed the Quai d’Orsay that "the security of the nationals is threatened and justifies evacuation".

This request was provoked by the news of the assassination of the French gendarme, Didot, and his wife; the death of his colleague Mayer would be known later. These French gendarmes secretly listened to communications.

Ambassador Marlaud thought that they were assassinated by the RPF, but a number of facts contradict this assertion.

The simple evacuation of the French nationals and foreigners was not the only planned option. A rift arose between the Office of the President of the Republic and the government consisting of the opposition of the right during this period of cohabitation. "[The special chief of staff of President Mitterrand, General Quesnot] Refusing to resign himself to the new "massacres and counter massacres", he recommends a more ambitious intervention by the French army so as to protect and evacuate the foreign community, stabilize the FAR of the interior, restore order in Kigali, and come between the belligerents in such a way as to stop the offensive of the Patriotic Front." The option of direct support to the FAR is quickly turned down especially by Prime Minister E. Balladur and to a certain extent the Minister of Foreign Affairs, A. Juppé.

It was not necessary to plunge back "into the Rwandan mess" nor "interfere in Rwandan political game".

The operation would be essentially restricted to the evacuation of French nationals and foreigners as well as the close relatives of President Habyarimana, but as we would see later on, it would also have supplied the FAR with ammunitions and would leave behind it soldiers to continue supporting the FAR involved in the genocide. Finally,

1.2 The proclamation of the decision of non-intervention in the ongoing massacres

On 10 April, the Amaryllis operation consisting of 464 elite soldiers and collaboration with the French troops and the FAR began.

The French instructors of the FAR elite units most involved in the killings were still present in Kigali. The French Ambassador encouraged the strong man at the time, Colonel Bagosora, to take the situation in hand. Ambassador Marlaud gave shelter to most political men and women of the Habyarimana regime, but also an important number of those who belonged to the new interim government, the formation of which he was consulted. This showed the decisive influence that France had on the politico-military process at the very beginning of the genocide and on the people who organized it.

Moreover France would strictly decide not to do anything to stop the massacres.

At no time, according to facts or retrospectively, would Ambassador Marlaud mention any political intervention with the military and political actors for purposes of stopping the massacres.

With regard to military intervention, the failure to act when faced with the massacres was laid down in the order of the Amaryllis operation from 8 April 1994, which stipulated that: "the French detachment will adopt a discreet attitude and neutral behavior towards the Rwandan factions". Ministers Alain Juppé and Michel Roussin who undertook to explain the reasons behind the Amaryllis operation stated unambiguously France’s refusal to try to stop the massacres.

On 11 April 1994, Michel Roussin explained the limits of the French intervention: "For France, it is not a question of intervening militarily in Rwanda. It is clear that our mission is of a humanitarian nature whose aim is to repatriate our nationals and their families". On the same day, Alain Juppé was more explicit in his rejection of an intervention directed at stopping the massacres: "Can France keep order in the whole world? Does she have the means and responsibility to stop, on the whole planet, people from killing each other?"

This refusal by the government of the right to intervene to stop the massacres in progress can easily be explained by the wish to keep a distance by the Mitterrandian management of the Rwandan problem, but it is based also on an ethnic and tribal vision of Africa in general and of Rwanda in particular.

Thus, in private, Prime Minister Balladur may have said: "They have always killed each other like that! Why do you want it to stop?"

On the part of the French Presidency, we observed, through General Quesnot, the proposal of an armed action to stop the massacres coupled with French military support to ensure the FAR’s victory over the RPF.

This option was shared by Colonel Bach, head of the Amaryllis specialized detachment, who thought that it was still possible to reverse the military situation and avoid the FAR defeat, moreover involved in the massacres.

"Indeed, at that time there was no sign of an FPR victory, the FAR offered perfect resistance […]. It would have required very few things (some French military advisers) to witness a reversal of the situation. June 1992 and June 1993 could have been "re-enacted" in April 1994".

On the 13 of April, that is to say a week after the beginning of the massacres, when they had reached a level of exceptional intensity and the interim government’s role as organizer of these massacres was well known, President Mitterrand was worried of the latter’s fate: "It would be surprising if Habyarimana’s government did not find a safe place where it can hold on for some time". Under those conditions it is not surprising that France did not try in any way to stop the massacres during the Amaryllis operation.


2. The facts blamed on France

2.1 Political support to the organizers of the genocide

After Habyarimana’s death and the start of the genocide, France offered political support to the interim government in order to facilitate its acceptance by other States and international organizations.

This support manifested itself especially in the political advice given to the leaders of the massacres during the formation of the interim government, the privileged evacuation of Hutu extremists and the abandonment of the Tutsi employees of the international organizations in Rwanda.

The French forces deployed in Rwanda in April 1994 did not try to check the murderous fury of the soldiers and militia who massacred civilians in front of their eyes.

2.1.1 Involvement in the training of the interim government

From the morning of 7 April 1994, many dignitaries of the Habyarimana regime, among whom were supporters of the extermination of Tutsis, gathered together in the French embassy where they were accommodated with their families.

There were about a hundred Rwandans, remembers Joseph Ngarambe, who arrived there on 10 April. As the table below shows, those who gathered there had, in the beginning, few reasons to fear for their security, because they were part, in most cases, of the very close circle of the Presidential party and the Hutu power.

Most of them played an active role in the genocide and are today being pursued by the judiciary, either on trial at the ICTR or sentenced by this jurisdiction, or targeted by complaints at international jurisdictions of other states.


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