FRANCE’S INVOLVEMENT DURING THE GENOCIDE
During their stay at the French embassy in Kigali, they contributed in forming the ministerial cabinet of the so-called interim government which organized and supervised the execution of the genocide.
A number of these personalities who took refuge in the French embassy would become part of the interim government as can be seen in this table.
Colonel Bagosora was in charge of the formation of the interim government, with the collaboration of the leaders of the “power” parties or the power factions of the opposition parties.
A cousin to President Habyarimana’s wife, Bagosora received his training at the War College in Paris, where he obtained a certificate of higher military studies.
He was successively deputy commander of the Kigali Higher Military Academy and commander of the important Kanombe military camp, from 1988 to 1992, in which the French officers and instructors were operating, before his appointment to the post of Director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Defense in 1992.
He was retired from the army on the 23 September 1993, but nevertheless he continued to exercise his functions of Director of cabinet until his departure from Rwanda in July 1994.
He is one of the main organizers civil self-defence program during which distribution of arms were carried out to civilian Hutus who had undergone military training, sometimes provided by French soldiers.
According to Filip Reyntjens, it is Bagosora who, in the night of 6 to 7 April 1994, between 2h and 7h in the morning, from the Ministry of Defence, gave the orders of massacres to the Presidential Guard, the reconnaissance battalion and the paratrooper battalion with which he had direct and private radio connection. Today he is on trial at the ICTR as the organizer of the genocide.
The French ambassador, Jean-Philippe Marlaud, got personally involved, at Bagosora’s side, in the formation of the interim government, to the extent of suggesting some people called upon to be part of it.
According to Ambassador Marlaud’s declarations at the MIP, since 7 April, in the company of Colonel Jean-Jacques Maurin, he had “approached Colonel Bagosora, the Director of Cabinet in the Ministry of Defence, while the latter was on a trip to Cameroon.
He had told him that it was necessary to resume control of the situation and that the Rwandan armed forces needed to cooperate with the UNAMIR, but that warning did not prove useful and the situation continued to deteriorate.”
Colonel Bagosora’s radically anti-Tutsi tendencies and moderate opposition political parties were common knowledge.
Thus, in June 1992, when the new coalition government led by the former opposition removed from office the former chiefs of staff of the army and the gendarmerie because of their extremist political positions, President Habyarimana tried to have Bagosora appointed to the post of chief of staff of the FAR.
The parties of the former opposition refused by virtue of his extremist political orientations. It was the very same Bagosora who, after participating in part of the negotiations of the Arusha Agreement had, on 8 January 1993 “openly expressed his opposition to the concessions made by the government representative, Boniface Ngulinzira, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to the extent of leaving the negotiations.
Colonel Bagosora left Arusha and declared that he was returning to Rwanda to prepare the Apocalypse”. This declaration, widely relayed in the Rwandan press, had been strongly shocking at the time.
The adjustment that constituted Ambassador Marlaud and Colonel Maurin’s approach to ask Bagosora to take “control of the situation” is well expressed by the former Prime Minister of the interim government, Jean Kambanda, during his interrogation on 26 September 1997 by two ICTR investigators.
To the question of knowing if Colonel Bagosora had encountered any opposition from the highest military officers about his intention of taking control of the military crisis committee that was constituted during the meeting of 7 April at the army headquarters, Kambanda replied: “– Jean Kambanda: Yes to his project of taking over power […] And he was rather advised to ask for the opinion of the French ambassador.
The support given by Ambassador Marlaud to the person who is today considered as the main organizer of the genocide, and the protection given to the most radically extremist members of the Hutu power who took refuge in the embassy, differs strongly from the way the French diplomat treated the case of the Prime Minister in office, Agathe Uwilingiyimana.
She represented the legitimate political authority as the head of government. She was, at the legal level, the person authorized to secure the vacant seat of power. But she had perhaps the disadvantage, in the eyes of the French ambassador, of being opposed to the Hutu power.
Prime Minister Uwilingiyimana had intervened on the morning of 7 April on RFI by launching a highly strung call for peace and the stop to violence. When she tried to go to the studios of the national radio, the FAR prevented her from reaching Radio Rwanda to send a message to the nation.
With that radio broadcast intervention on the morning of 7 April, whereas several opposition personalities had already been assassinated, France knew that the Rwandan Prime Minister was alive and in danger of death.
Yet, between the Prime Minister’s residence and the French embassy, there was a distance not exceeding 500 m! She was executed very near her home between 11h and 12h.
She could have been saved if the French ambassador wanted to do so.
Interviewed by the MIP, Marlaud acknowledged having, as a matter of fact, held meetings with political officials who constituted the interim government:
“The morning of 8 April had been marked by […] the arrival of several ministers at the Embassy. They then held a meeting during which they fixed three thrusts: to replace the dead or ministers and officials who had disappeared; try to once again take control of the Presidential Guard in order to stop the massacres; and finally reaffirm their commitment to the Arusha Agreement. However, they refused to appoint Mr. Faustin Twagiramungu Prime Minister in the place of Mrs. Agathe Uwilingiyimana”.
Concluding on Marlaud’s hearing, the MIP wrote: “Towards 20 hours [8 April], the embassy was informed of the appointment of the President of the Republic and an interim Government.
The composition of this government was apparently in accordance with the Arusha Agreement since it provided for the allocation of the portfolios between political parties”.
Ambassador Marlaud distorted the truth, because the interim government brought together only representatives of the member parties of the Hutu power delegation as well as dissident Hutu power factions of the opposition parties.
This Hutu Power coalition was, since the end of the year 1993, radically against the Arusha Agreement and advocated the massacre of Tutsis and Hutu political officials loyal to the Arusha peace process.
The formation of the interim government, an essential stage in the achievement of the genocidaire program, had required first of all the assassination of the political leaders opposed to the Hutu power coalition, among them the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Prime Minister, Agathe Uwilingiyimana, who, according to the constitution, was supposed to assume power, by virtue of the disappearance of the Head of State.
Some rare non-Hutu power political leaders had gone into hiding. Thus, the formation of the interim government was a clear manifestation of the blow against the Arusha Agreement and the political stage necessary for the commission of the genocide.
After contributing to its formation, Ambassador Marlaud tried, four years later, to recognize the government that organized the genocide.
Since its formation, Ambassador Marlaud worked on getting the diplomatic support for this government from European partners.
During the afternoon of 8 April, he telephoned his Belgian counterpart, Johan Swinnen, and gave him a list of the chosen ministers and requested him to give his support, by giving him reasons why that government had been put in place - to prevent a military coup d’état.
F. Reyntjens, according to by Linda Melvern, the Belgian ambassador “reacted with reservation,” by thinking that “the tendency is too much “power”. He expressed the point of view that such a government seemed least in accordance with the real political requirements. Marlaud said that he was satisfied, especially since he thought that the formation of a government would make it possible to prevent the coup d’état that he feared”.
We ask ourselves what led Ambassador Marlaud to isolate General Marcel Gatsinzi, the army chief of staff who represented the lawful military authority. Why did France collaborate with Bagosora, retired from the army and well known for his extremist positions, by leaving aside the chief of staff in charge of national security issues and maintenance of order, who had been appointed since 6 April in the evening by his peers of the army?
1.1.1 The targeted evacuations
A few days after the triggering off of the genocide, France started operation Amaryllis in Rwanda, with the official mission of evacuating French nationals and foreigners.
Thus, Amaryllis evacuated the French and other Westerners, sometimes with their dogs, but abandoned hundreds of thousands of Rwandans in danger of certain death, including Tutsi employees of the embassy and other French services established in Rwanda.
She left behind officials of non-European international organizations who had taken refuge at the UNAMIR at the technical school in Kicukiro, but was concerned with evacuating as a matter of priority the most virulent Hutu extremists.
a) Protection of Hutu power extremists
The main Rwandan people evacuated by France were those close to power, with priority given to the late president’s widow, Agathe Kanziga, first to board to Bangui with twelve members of her family, in particular her brother Protais Zigiranyirazo, her sister Catherine Mukamusoni, her first cousin Séraphin Rwabukumba and Alphonse Ntilivamunda, President Habyarimana’s son-in-law.
At that time, Agathe Kanziga and those other people, with the exception of Catherine Mukamusoni, were known for being extremists who, since 1992, organized around them a group of killers consisting of civilians and soldiers, called “Zero network” or “Madam’s clan” which coordinated the massacres and political assassinations during the years preceding the genocide.
Mrs. Habyarimana’s harmful role was recognized by the Commission for refugees’ appeal in its decision of dismissal of the 15 February 2007 which states as follows:
“The result of the preliminary investigation is that […] it is possible to establish the existence of a first circle of power […] called akazu, in which was conspicuous the predominant role played by the claimant; that this first circle of the akazu included people coming mostly from the interested person’s province of origin and that of her late husband, that the hard core of the same circle consisted of Mrs. Agathe KANZIGA Habyarimana’s widow, her brother Protais ZIGIRANYIRAZO, her first cousin Séraphin RWABUKUMBA and her cousin, Colonel Elie SAGATWA, and that this ‘small akazu’ held the real power since the 1973 coup d’état especially in the appointment of leaders, soldiers and magistrates to the main posts as well as in redistributing state property, which favoured members of the akazu at the provinces of the north-west of Rwanda, from where came these members; that is why the claimant, without having an official post, exercised a de facto authority on the affairs of state; that she had necessarily found herself at the heart of the regime that had become guilty of the crimes perpetrated between 1973 and 1994, especially assassinations of political opponents after the 1973 coup d’état and the planning of the Rwandan genocide that took place , in its greatest proportion, between the 6 April and the 17 July 1994”.
President Habyarimana’s widow did not at all hide her commitment in favour of the on-going massacres in Rwanda.
François Mitterand’s declaration during an audience granted to a delegation of Doctors without Borders, on 14 June 1994, shows it quite well: “She is possessed; if she could, she would continue calling for massacres on French radios. She is very difficult to control”.
The role played by Agathe Kanziga in the policy of massacres was common knowledge and French decision makers knew it.
From these documents from the French President’s Office it is obvious that the evacuation of the Rwandan presidential family and other dignitaries of the Rwandan regime was explicitly organized by the French President.
A note from Bruno Delaye shows “President Habyarimana’s family. It is for the time being under protection of the Presidential guard. If it wishes, it will be received at our ambassador’s residence, in accordance with your instructions”.
Another note from General Quesnot specifies: “The situation led to recommending strongly to our nationals to leave the country.
The first plane with about forty French people on board and, in accordance with your instructions, twelve members of President Habyarimana’s close family left Kigali on Saturday late afternoon”.
Agathe Kanziga and her close relatives arrived in France on 17 April 1994 and settled first of all in a hotel in Paris at the expense of the French Government, then moved to a family flat, with France meeting all the expense for the suite.
They were received by the representatives of the Quai d’Orsay who allocated them a subsistence allowance charged on a special account for urgent actions in favour of Rwandan refugees.
Interrogated on the merits of that favour, the Minister of Cooperation, Michel Roussin rose up against those who criticized him: “We had good relations with a lawfully elected president and we picked up his family which requested for our assistance”.
He added “It is strange, to say the least, to blame France for acting that way: other countries deemed it appropriate to abandon the leaders with whom they had normal relations until then. Doing the same would have condemned them to death. Our traditions are different.”
Interviewed by the MIP, Alain Juppé denied the reality of the selective nature of the evacuations: “Those decisions to evacuate were taken on the spot between the French embassy, and our ambassador who was on the ground, Mr. Marlaud, and the officers of Amaryllis according to what was feasible in the town that had fallen prey to massacres and where many areas were totally inaccessible.
The detail might seem insignificant but the telephone had been disconnected. We were able to evacuate the people who were at the embassy and in the assembly areas – and I say it here until I get proof to the contrary-, whether they were French, foreigners of all nationalities, the Hutu or Tutsi Rwandans.
The embassy staff were saved irrespective of their origin. And I find it extremely serious to affirm without concrete proof that there might have been screening at the French embassy between Hutus and Tutsis at the time of evacuation.
I would like to affirm the contrary – on the basis of the information I have-, provided that those who support this argument support it with proof. But I would like to say that it is really extremely serious when people assert things of this nature.”
It is proper to clarify that the telephone was disconnected in Kigali during the Amaryllis operation. During this period, the Tutsi former employees of French institutions used it and communicated with their French employers as we shall see further down.
The country’s main telephone exchange was removed to the Hotel des Mille Collines and was under surveillance of the French soldiers.
It allowed exchanges between Colonel Jean-Jacques Maurin and the FAR headquarters, and it is on this same exchange, on 2 May 1994, that Bruno Delaye talked to the boss of the FAR, General Bizimungu, to stop him from executing the refugees in that hotel.
Finally, during Amaryllis, French troops could go wherever they pleased, almost everywhere in Kigali, except the small area occupied by the RPF battalion stationed inside Parliament and its surroundings by virtue of the Arusha Agreement.
b) Screening and abandonment of people in mortal danger
During Amaryllis, Rwandans who worked in French institutions in Rwanda were all abandoned. Michel Cuingnet, head of the French civilian cooperation mission in Rwanda in 1994, remembers that “the local staff of the cooperation Mission, most of them Tutsis, were practically all massacred, some of them under his eyes; with regard to the other staff of the different French diplomatic services, considering the events and the distance between the buildings, he doesn’t know if they were able to be evacuated.”
Venuste Kayijamahe and Charles Rubagumya, at the time employees of the French Cultural Center in Kigali, affirm effectively having contacted Miche Cuingnet and other French officials to be saved and they both received no answer.
Venuste Kayijamahe testifies:
“In February 1994, I had been threatened with death by the militia at my home in Gikondo and I had moved to the French Cultural Center.
I had put my five children in families in town. On 6 April in the morning, the director of the Center, Anne Cros, called me and asked me to find accommodation outside. As soon as the massacres started in the night of 6 to 7, I tried to reach the areas where my children were.
I asked Anne for help on phone on 8 April. She replied that she could not do anything for me, that there were not enough French soldiers, that they left since Noroît and that those who were there were too busy. She hung up.
In the afternoon, Anne Cros came to the Center escorted by a dozen French soldiers to pack dossiers. I begged her to authorize those soldiers to accompany me so that I might go to retrieve my children who were not far from the Center.
She replied that she could not do anything about it. I called the French embassy several times to ask for help. As soon as I said that it is Venuste, the agent hung up. I was blamed for having accorded interviews to the RFI to describe my predicament.
On 9 April in the afternoon, I received a surprise telephone call from Michel Cuingnet who told me that he was sending me 57 soldiers. He told me to warn the guards so that they open the doors quickly because the soldiers would not stay long.
I asked Michel Cuingnet to help me to go and retrieve my children. He told me to discuss with them when they were there and he hung up.
After their arrival at the Center, I talked to their commander with a rank of major and submitted my request to him. He replied that he would not evacuate Rwandans. I told him that M. Cuingnet authorized me to go and retrieve my children.
The soldier told me that he didn’t give a damn about me, and that in any case, they would not evacuate Rwandans. On 11 April, a French soldier told me that they were about to go.
I beseeched him once again to take us either to France, or to another country, or to the CND, or to the UNAMIR. He told me that it was the Embassy that decided everything, that he had no order to evacuate us. On 12 April, they went and left us behind.”
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW