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.
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.”
“On 7 April, I called the French Cultural Center to ask for help. On the line I heard one of my immediate bosses who replied that I had to manage on my own. During the following days, I called several times without being listened to. On 11 April, I bribed a Rwandan soldier who accompanied me to the Cultural Center. It was guarded by several French soldiers. I showed them my service card and I entered. Inside, I found there Venuste Kayijamahe. There was also one of his friends, three other workers and a woman accompanied by her children whom I had pretended to be my family. They were all Tutsis. The French told us that they were going away the following day and that they would not carry us with them, that our evacuation was not part of their mandate. It was unthinkable for us. The following day, they packed their luggage without telling us anything. One of my colleagues contacted the wife of Ambassador Marlaud to ask her to intervene for us. She replied that the French were not evacuating Rwandans. Immediately, the French soldiers took their vehicles and took away all their food stuffs without leaving anything behind for us. I threw myself in one of their convoys.They threw me on the ground. We begged a group of them which at least accepted to drop us at the St. Expery school where were gathered the Belgian nationals. We remained there. When the Belgian soldiers came to evacuate their nationals, they took all those who were there, without any distinction. They took us to Nairobi and I managed to get a visa and I went to Europe.”
Apart from abandoning the local Tutsi personnel, Amaryllis refused to evacuate Rwandans who had married foreigners, those who cohabited with the French or with Europeans of other nationalities.
Nor did Amaryllis evacuate Rwandan defenders of human rights who had requested them, such as the prosecutor François Nsanzuwera, and political opposition personalities like the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Boniface Ngulinzira, hated by the champions of Hutu power for his main role on the peace negotiations, whereas he begged the French soldiers at ETO on 11 April.
Colette Braeckman, who was there, mentions in these terms the French soldiers’ complaisant attitude: “I witnessed some harrowing scenes at the Kanombe airport where the French left behind them Tutsi partners of expatriates who begged them to take them along with them. Contrary to the Belgians who managed to ex-filtrate some Tutsis in a small number, the French did embark only expatriates. They separated mixed couples.”
A journalist of the daily Le Monde also present remembers the case of a Russian woman married to a Tutsi who was forced to abandon her husband, the French soldiers allowing her in extremis the only right to take her three half-caste children.
Some Rwandans managed to slip onto lorries carrying the expatriates, but at the airport, the French soldiers carried out a scanning on the basis of the pre-established lists.
They turned back those who were rejected, and handed them over to the Rwandan soldiers and militia who had erected road blocks at the entry to the airport, who massacred them there and then.
Jean Loup Denblyden, a reserve colonel who participated in the Silver Back operation as a Belgian liaison officer with the French detachment affirms: “during Amaryllis, French soldiers screened the Tutsis before the Kanombe airport and pushed them back towards the roadblocks”.
There was a screening and the people who were rejected, were pushed back to the roadblock. The French said to those who were rejected: we are not taking you and pushed them back towards the roadblock which was exactly at the entry to the present parking”.
On realizing the seriousness of the facts, Mr. Denblyden informed the French military officers and the UNAMIR, and received as an answer not to interfere with issues that don’t concern Belgians:
“I climbed the stairs where was Colonel Poncet, who commanded the Amaryllis operation, and told him my problem. He shrugged his shoulders. Colonel Morin who was from the UNAMIR and was beside him asked me not to interfere. I immediately contacted General Roman and the operation officer […] I told them my problem as I thought it was my duty to do so[…] A French non-commissioned officer intervened by telling me that Belgians were not concerned, and that it was a French problem. It was on the third day of the Amaryllis”.
Finally, M. Denblyden noticed that people had been killed near that roadblock: “I climbed above the airport on the platform, and I went to see if from above where I was I could see the roadblock, and there were bodies strewn at the right side of the airport lower down.”
Jean-Pierre Martin, a Belgian journalist, reports that French soldiers took pleasure in watching the massacres of civilians near the Kanombe airport:
“It is true that in 1994 I saw images that remain in my memory and that I would never forget especially that pregnant woman that they disembowelled 100 metres in front of me and there was a jeep and two French soldiers who were laughing 50 metres from where it was happening.
And finally it is the two Belgian soldiers with whom we were that routed the Interahamwe or the killers. (…) It was at the exit from the airport when you turn to the road that leads to town, once you have passed the depression and you climb towards the stadium, it happened there.
For me I was in the depression knowing that I was moving from a jeep of Belgian soldiers which came to my rescue because they were afraid; and we witnessed that scene where a pregnant woman was disemboweled, and between me, the jeep of Belgian soldiers and that killing, there was a jeep of French soldiers busy laughing, who didn’t move, who watched the scene as if it was in a cinema.”
The perpetration of massacres at Kanombe airport in front of the complacent French soldiers was also narrated by the France 2 special envoy, Philippe Boisserie, who reported it in the televised news of 11 April 1994 at 13h:
“I was at the airport producing a topic, and late morning, a Canadian female colleague (…) came back in a state of shock, because effectively, there had happened what I narrate in sequence: at the time when the French convoy was coming back, there was a massacre that took place under my eyes. We therefore decided to shoot on the spot. We knew that was not far from the airport, but we were all the same taking a risk. We asked to be allowed to go there and a car, always driven by the French soldiers, escorted us. We were able to see that there had been a massacre. It was a daily affair and it happed under the eyes of French soldiers without any reaction on their part.”
Colette Braeckman remembers also that French soldiers displayed an indifferent attitude towards the massacres:
“During all those days, it was very dangerous for Belgians to move freely in Kigali. I only made one trip to town with Belgian soldiers who were going to look for expatriates.From a lorry in which we were, I saw the scene of Kigali town, bodies that were strewn on the streets, lorries of the refuse department that were passing by and picking up corpses and remains. Some journalist colleagues who were accompanying the French soldiers told me that the latter did not engage in soul-searching. They all had helmets with music, and when they arrived at roadblocks where people were being killed, they increased the volume of the music so as not to hear the shouts of the people who were massacred under their eyes. Afterwards, they would ask that they open the way and would pass very quickly to pick expatriates”.
According to confidences made to journalists by a French soldier who sought anonymity, the order not to stop massacres was given by Admiral Lanxade and/or General Christian Quesnot:
“Before going to Rwanda, I passed by to take orders from Lanxade, then instructions at the EMP (special Headquarters of the president of the Republic)” Jacques Morel thinks that these words came from Colonel Henri Poncet who commanded the Amaryllis in as much as, in his capacity of leader of the operation, he was the most likely to receive those orders at such a high hierarchy level. But as we saw above, it was an assumed political decision.
a)Rescue of the Saint Agathe orphanage and of the leader of the killers of Masaka
The second selective evacuation carried out by the French in April 1994 concerns the St. Agathe in the area of Masaka, near Kigali.
This institution, sponsored by the spouse of the head of state, was run by the Saint Vincent Palotti Sisters and had the specialty of receiving orphans of the FAR soldiers killed in combat.
The Mother Superior of the orphanage, Sister Edita, from Poland, was given the responsibility to find adoptive families in Europe, especially France.
She was evacuated by the French and did not want to return to Rwanda after 1994.
According to various testimonies, there was, at the St. Agathe orphanage, ethnic discrimination against the Tutsi or Hutu personnel that distanced themselves from extremism.
The children who were living there in April 1994 and about thirty adults called “accompanying adults” were evacuated by the French on 10 April 1994, but the Tutsi staff that worked there and the members of their families were picked out then killed on the orders of Paul Kanyamihigo who was a driver at the orphanage.
From Gisenyi, Kanyamihigo was an active member of the CDR, notoriously known at Masaka, and immediately after the fall of the plane, he directed attacks against the Tutsis.
He and his family were evacuated by the French, as well as the family of a CDR extremist, Justin Twiringiyimana who was a watchman at the orphanage.
It is Kanyamihigo who showed the French the people to evacuate or leave behind on the basis of a pre-established list according to ethnic criteria.
Testimonies emphasize Paul Kanyamihigo’s extremism, his participation in the persecution of the Tutsi staff of the orphanage since October 1990, his collaboration with the intelligence services of the Presidency, his involvement in the massacre of the Tutsis since 7 April.
At the time of evacuation, Paul Kanyamihigo collaborated closely with French officials in the scanning of people to be evacuated according to pre-established indications provided by the latter or by officials of the orphanage, especially the director, Sister Editha.
Witnesses affirm also that people were proposed by Kanyamihigo himself, and all of them were CDR extremists.
Upon their arrival in Paris, the people evacuated from the orphanage were first of all accommodated at the reception center for asylum seekers of Créteil in the region of Paris, then taken to Olivet in the south of Orléans where, for two and a half years, they were accommodated in a property put at their disposal by the general Council of Loiret.
Thereafter, they were entrusted to reception families by the Children’s Directorate. Since then, Rwanda tried to bring them back. A group of children was repatriated, and another one was adopted by French families, without a possibility of finding them again.
Even if we cannot blame France for having evacuated orphans at that particularly troubled time, the political and social context surrounding that orphanage did not make it a priority.
Since that orphanage had sent a number of children for adoption in France, it was known by the French embassy’s services. There were other orphanages in Kigali and Rwanda, some run by religious people.
The choice to have children adopted in the orphanage belonging to Agathe Habyarimana, essentially sheltering orphans of soldiers, was certainly unknown to the political and social Hutu power sphere of influence in which he worked.
Since the list of evacuations had been prepared personally by Ambassador Marlaud, the choice of this orphanage falls in direct line with the ambassador’s political options.
The politically and, in the final analysis, ethnically discriminatory nature becomes clearer when you consider the fate in store for the orphanage of Marc Vaiter whose number of children were directly threatened.
The second question arising from the evacuation of the Agathe Habyarimana orphanage concerns the number of accompanying adults which seems to have been higher than that of the employees of the orphanage.
According to André Guichaoua, France evacuated “94 children from the St. Agathe orphanage, […], accompanied by 34 people”.
Observers think that their number was reviewed upwards by those who carried out the evacuation, so as to be able to infiltrate the people close to the regime with the intention of putting them out of danger, in the prospect of bringing them back to power after hopefully neutralizing the FPR.
The number, convergence and agreement of several testimonies produced on the important facts as well as their crosschecking with the archives and documentaries make it possible to reasonably come to a number of conclusions on the responsibility of the French Government in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
France knew about the preparation of the genocide
France knew that the Habyarimana regime was likely to commit genocide or massacres of a very large scale since 1990.
Thereafter, she could not be unaware that the preparations of the massacres were in progress, more important than those that were committed between October 1990 and February 1993.
Well, if it is a question of ethnic massacres exceeding in scope the acts of genocide previously organized by the regime, there was every reason to recall, since before April 1994, the preparation of the genocide of a higher scope.
The conclusion according to which France was supposed to know that the genocide was being prepared follows from the development of the country’s political and security context as well as the privileged position of the French officials in all the workings of the country’s security apparatus. The following are the facts on which this conclusion is based:
The political and security context since October 1990 developed towards the radicalization of the regime, leading to the gradual formulation of a political doctrine of an openly genocidal nature.
In the context of a State founded on an official ethnic discrimination, the regime reacted to the October 1990 attack by the RPF by turning itself against the internal Tutsi population which was not party to the armed conflict launched by the RPF.
The regime responded to the attack with massacres of thousands of Tutsis and the arrest of dozens of thousands of others.
In the days following the attack of 1st October 1990, road blocks were erected – and kept until 1994 – where they systematically arrested Tutsis, some of whom were carried to sites where they were tortured or executed.
In a diplomatic telegram of 15 October 1990, Colonel Galiénié refers to the risk of genocide. In a letter, also dated 15 October, Ambassador Martres does the same.
Finally, in front of the MIP, Ambassador Martres acknowledged that the genocide was foreseeable since October 1990, quoting in particular Colonel Serubuga, the deputy Chief of Staff of the Rwandan army, who had rejoiced in the RPF attack because it would serve as a justification for the massacres of Tutsis.
During this first period of conflict, an extremist press close to the regime was born, and one of its first notable actions was the publication by the Kangura journal, on 6 December 1990, of the “10 Bahutu commandments” which referred without any ambiguity to the Tutsis as the enemies of the Hutus and the State.
In January 1992, the Director of African Affairs in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Paul Dijoud, during a meeting in Paris had given to Paul Kagame, then commander in chief of the RPA, the following warning: “if you don’t stop fighting, if you capture the country, you will not find your brothers and your families, because they will all have been massacred”.
At the beginning of 1992, a system was set up to carry out well organized mass massacres on ethnic basis. In February 1992 there was the effective start of the program of “civil defence” in the north and north east of the country.
At the start of 1992, there was also the beginning of the training of Interahamwe in the country’s main military camps. In March 1992, these Interahamwe played a predominant and publicly announced role in the Bugesera massacres, working in conjunction with the Presidential Guard.
On 21 September 1992, the army chief of staff, Déogratias Nsabimana, sent a secret memorandum to his subordinates in which he defined, among other things, the Rwandan refugees, the Tutsis of the interior of the country, the Nilo-hamitic tribes of the region but also the “disgruntled Hutus” as being “the enemy”.
The document was made known to the public some time later. Mid-October, a computerized register of wanted people to be monitored (WPTBM) was made operational by the Center for Criminal Investigation and Documentation (CCID).
Its purpose was to facilitate registration, investigation and monitoring of Tutsis and political opponents.
On 22 November 1992, Léon Mugesera, very close to President Habyarimana, launched a public incitement calling for the massacre of Tutsis. He was obeyed, and during the following weeks hundreds of Tutsis were massacred. During the days that followed the 2 February 1993 attack by the RPF, and in reaction to the development of the Arusha peace process, the Rwandan internal political scene experienced political adjustments towards the creation of a front for the rejection of the peace agreement process, and the subsequent formation of the Hutu-power coalition.
In August 1993, the Special Reporter for the Human Rights Commission, Bacre Waly Ndiaye, at the end of his mission to Rwanda in April 1993, published a report describing as genocide the massacres that littered the period from October 1990 to January 1993.
That report confirmed the one published in March 1993 by the International Commission on the investigations of violations of human rights in Rwanda since 1st October 1990, which, had also referred to the massacres as genocide.
After the death of Ndadaye, the Burundian President, on 21 October 1993, the Hutu-power coalition was to formalize its discourse by advocating the massacre of Tutsis and Hutus sympathetic to the peace process.
It is also at this time that the Radio des Mille Collines started its broadcasts that promoted hatred against Tutsis and Hutus opposed to Hutu-power.
During the last term of 1993, the training of the Interahamwe was speeded up, the phenomenon took on new dimensions, by the fact of their number, in Kigali and especially in the north of the country, but also according to their level of organization with vehicles, modern white weapons and redoubled efficiency.
But, the Interahamwe had no known calling other than participation in massacres of Tutsis and other acts of violence and intimidation against Tutsis and opposition supporters.
In 1994, on 20 February, the same chief of staff of the FAR, Déogratias Nsabimana showed to his cousin, Jean-Berchmans Birara, another list of 1500 people meant to be assassinated. The latter took it to Western chanceries, including the French embassy.
But, during the entire period from October 1990 to April 1994, French officers were present in almost all the organs of the Rwandan security.
With effect from 1991, until at least December 1993, there were several French advisers next to the FAR, the gendarmerie, the advisers in the investigation organ of the gendarmerie, the CRCD, as well as in almost all the specialized units, including the Presidential guards.
The French military advisers could be found at all levels, in the headquarters, in the elite units and on each of the operational sectors on the edge of the front line.
At the headquarters, they participated in and often directed the preparation of strategies, made battle and security plans, especially for Kigali. In the operational sectors, they directed the FAR’s combat actions.
Until April 1994, there were French advisers in the army and gendarmerie headquarters as well as in the para-commando battalion, one of those that were heavily involved in the starting of the genocide.
Thus, the French soldiers were not only everywhere in the country’s security organs, but they also occupied very important roles.
According to General Dallaire, by virtue of their presence in the training structures of the FAR, the French soldiers: “were well aware that there was something brewing that could lead to great massacres”.
In November 1993, the UNAMIR established a small cell for the collection of information. One month later, its main officer, Lieutenant Mark Nees, in spite of his lack of training for this assignment, and, it seems, his errors, wrote, thanks to a network of informers, reports that revealed meetings at the Government’s highest level, to destabilize the UNAMIR, kill opponents and Tutsis.
It is in this framework that in January 1994 the UNAMIR came into contact with the leading Interahamwe “Jean Pierre” who revealed a plan to exterminate the Tutsis in Kigali.
If the UNAMIR, with its limited means and its confessed amateurism in terms of intelligence, managed to glean this type of information, you can imagine the quantity and quality of information that the French officers had in their possession.
France participated in the most important initiatives of the genocide
At the political level and ideological level, France reinforced the Habyarimana regime in the preparation of its genocide doctrine.
In their internal communication, diplomatic telegrams, service reports and other documents, the different people in charge of the Rwandan dossier between 1990 and 1993 state their radically ethnic option of the Rwandan conflict.
For these officials, and in the first place President Mitterrand, it is, in the first place and above of all, a matter of an ethnic and regionalized war, opposing the majority Hutus and the “Nilo-hamitic” minority Tutsi.
This report provided many examples of this French vision, with the French decision makers and the implementers of various military interventions during the entire period of the Rwandan conflict.
As an example we can mention the declaration President Mitterrand made in the cabinet, insidiously justifying the ongoing genocide, on 22 June 1994:
“The president of the Republic recalls that Rwanda, like Burundi, is essentially inhabited by Hutus. Therefore the majority of the inhabitants naturally supported President Habyarimana’s government. If this country were to come under the very minority ethnic Tutsi domination that is based in Uganda where some people are in favor of the creation of a “Tutsiland” including not only the latter country but also Rwanda and Burundi, it is obvious that the democratization process would be interrupted.”
And, the essentially political and ethnic fear of the conflict was the main point of disagreement between, on one side the moderate opponents, and on the other hand, the Habyarimana regime and the Hutu-power coalition.
Since October 1990, France aligned herself with the most radically ethnic vision of the conflict of the extremists and supported them. Thus, towards the end of the negotiation process of the Arusha agreement, one of the main stumbling blocks had been the refusal by the RPF and part of the internal Hutu opposition to include the Coalition for the Defence of the Republic in the widely based coalition government (WBCG) which was supposed to get out of the peace agreement.
French diplomats exerted pressure so that that the openly racist party, which, already at the time, called for the massacre of the Tutsis and moderate opponents, may be included.
Apart from the simple role of support to the extremists, the French decision makers led the action of promoting the ethnic war. A few weeks after the 8 February 1993 attack by the RPF which had sunk the FAR defenses, at the time when the peace negotiations were reaching very sensitive heights, the French Minister of Cooperation and Development, Marcel Debarge, came to Kigali on 28 February 1993.
During his visit, he urged the opposition political parties to “forge a common front” with President Habyarimana against the RPF.
Both the Rwandan political actors and the observers made a very precise interpretation of that call by Debarge reported here by the French historian, Gérard Prunier:
“Even if it is understandable that Paris would like to exploit the closing of Hutu ranks against the RPF against the Tutsi RPF, the French minister’s official declaration is shocking. In such a climate of ethnic tension, after the massacres of the previous weeks, that call for a “common front”, of course based on race, is almost a call to racial war.”
The Belgian journalist, Colette Braeckman, present in Rwanda at the time, affirms that while pretending to support the Arusha process, “in private, the French diplomats boasted of having divided the opposition parties by encouraging the birth of Hutu power.”
And the creation of the Hutu-power coalition was a prerequisite for the successful implementation of the genocide.
France supported to the hilt by organizing, training and arming the FAR. It also fought on their sides at different times, in October 1990, in January 1991, in June 1992 and in February 1993.
And the army had a military doctrine of the genocide type, since it referred to a part of its civilian population as an enemy and that it put that doctrine into practice when members of the gendarmerie and the Presidential guard participated in the massacres of the civilian population like in March 1992 in Bugesera.
The French soldiers participated in the erection of road blocks in different regions of the country, but most particularly around Kigali, where they made identity checks on ethnic basis, stopping Tutsis.
Some of the latter were thereafter tortured and assassinated in collusion with the French soldiers.
The French soldiers in Rwanda contributed to the conceptualization and organization of the “civil defence” which was to serve as an administrative instrument of the execution of the genocide.
To remember, it is a matter of a program of paramilitary training and arming the population in general, under the supervision of the local authorities.
It is through this program that with effect from May 1994 the genocide will be systematized on the entire territory under the control of the interim government. This program is different from the Interahamwe militia which however constituted its spearhead.
Thus, Lieutenant Colonel Gilbert Canovas, after an inspection tour of the front line in February 1991wrote a report in which he proposed to the Rwandan army “the creation of small civilian elements, disguised in peasants, in the sensitive areas, in order to neutralize the generally isolated rebels.”
It is a question of conceptualizing the use of disguised soldiers or civilians in actions of war.
In February 1992, the program of “civil defense” started in the northeast of Rwanda. In spite of the reservations issued in a diplomatic telegram by the French military attaché in Kigali, Colonel Cussac, who seemed to be anxious to protect himself, at the same time it is the French soldiers who launched that program.
It had been subject of discussions between Rwandans for months, but it had never taken off. It is the organizational and logistic support of the French army that enabled it to be launched.
The military soldiers went to look for volunteers from the governors to participate in the training program, they offered arms for the first groups of participants, provided logistics, supervised the training and gave some courses.
The French soldiers trained and contributed to training militarily the Interahamwe between the beginning of 1992 until the departure of the Noroît operation in December 1993.
Some witnesses, but it is not systematic, say also that in some cases French soldiers contributed to the ideological training whose main teaching point was to define the Tutsi as the enemy.
This training was done in five big military camps where French soldiers were established. After the Bugesera massacre of March 1992, that was followed by Colonel Robardey, the French army knew that the Interahamwe whom they were training had as their main mission the massacre of the Tutsis, a mission that was confirmed in the course of time.
The French soldiers fully participated in the intensification of training during the last term of 1993. This intensification was part of the preparations of the genocide, and the French army could not know it, for reasons synthesized above.
The French soldiers contributed to the registration of the Tutsis and political opponents. The French gendarmes attached to the CRCD introduced the computerization of the service’s data banks, especially the register of persons to be registered and watched (PRAW).
On 14 October 1992, Colonel Robardey wrote to the chief of staff of the national gendarmerie, Colonel Augustin Ndindiliyimana, informing him the PRAW was ready for use, and that he was only waiting for his approval to make it operational.
General Jean Varret, head of military cooperation mission from October 1990 to April 1993, had been the initiator of the French military cooperation project at the CRCD.During his interview by the MIP, he affirmed that he had had the feeling that the work of French gendarmes at the CRCD would be to register the Tutsis.
And, at the beginning of the genocide, the soldiers who moved from house to house to kill political opponents or distinguished Tutsis carried printed lists.
The gendarmerie had the area in numbers and logistics necessary for a good collection of information, and it had the software prepared by the French gendarmes.
A former cadre of the Central intelligence Service affirmed that his institution had never reached that level of organization.
There are also strong chances that these lists used at the beginning of genocide were made with the contribution of the PRAW.
During the days that followed the attack on President Habyarimana’s plane, Ambassador Martres urged Colonel Bagosora to take over power.
A year earlier, the latter had publicly announced that he was going to “prepare the apocalypse”. Thereafter, Martres gave his blessing to the formation of an interim government that brought together almost exclusively members of the Hutu power coalition.
And both Colonel Bagosora and almost all the future members of the interim government were known for their position defending a violent solution against those whom they accused of being internal accomplices of the RPF, the Tutsis in general and the Hutu opposed to Hutu power.
Colonel Bagosora is considered as the brain of the genocide, and the interim government its main organizer.
Bagosora and most members of the interim government have either already been sentenced for the genocide at the ICTR, or they are still on trial. Their positions were perfectly clear since before the genocide.
Without France’s support at the time, it is most likely that the extremist circles would have restricted their genocide action: “Obviously the akazus judged the world from the height of their local dictatorship, but they would probably have not deviated to that extent if they had known that it would lead to their total isolation on the international scene.
Thus, France unintentionally encouraged Rwanda’s final dive into a blood bath.” However, we have our reservation on the evaluation of the voluntary nature or not of this support.