Time France said ‘sorry’ for her Rwanda Genocide sins

Once again, France has come out loudly to denying its role in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide despite well researched implicating evidence.
France soldiers patroling Rwanda  during Genocide.
France soldiers patroling Rwanda during Genocide.

Once again, France has come out loudly to denying its role in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide despite well researched implicating evidence.

Responding to the recently released Mucyo Report, France accused Rwanda of making ‘unacceptable accusations’ by alleging that Paris played an active role in the genocide.

“This report contains unacceptable accusations made against French political and military officials,” the AFP quoted French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal.

Also reported to have dismissed the report are;  Foreign Minister Bernand Kouchner and Alain Juppe the former Foreign Minister at the time of the grisly massacres.

Kouchner described the report ‘unacceptable accusations,’ while Juppe, himself named in the report, claimed the report intended to ‘re-write history.’

Juppe even claimed that, during the time he was in charge of French diplomacy [April 1993 to May 1995] France ‘made every effort possible to help in the reconciliation of Rwandans.’ What a hoax!

If the killings, amid hate propaganda on the national radio continued unabated, under their watchful eye, and participation, what kind of reconciliation was that?

In his narration of events in the book, ‘Silent Accomplice”, Andrew Wallis, gives a vivid description, of the deployment of the French military even before the 1994 genocide.

On its early use of the Belgian inspired segregated identity cards for instance,  “Video footage taken during this early period of Operation Noroit, shows smartly dressed French soldiers with automatic rifles, by their sides and green berets atop their traditionally shaven heads surrounded by Rwandans at a road block.”

“Not surprisingly, the French troops formed close bonds with their FAR counterparts with whom they trained, worked and socialized.”

Interestingly, the same spokesman was reported saying they were still determined to build a new relationship with Rwanda, beyond the difficult past. “Our determination…remains intact.” 

But with the denialism still deeply rooted in the French establishment minds, I find it hard to believe their determination, for any form of credible reconciliation with the Rwandan Government.

The reports of the French casting doubt on the ‘objectivity’ of the Mucyo Independent Commission,  casts further doubt on France’s commitment to mend ties.

Certainly it is not in the interest of Rwanda to maintain severed ties with France as several government officials have pointed out.

Warm ties can only benefit citizens of both countries. Necessitating France’s bold move in demonstrating commitment to restore diplomatic relations; she has to acknowledge her mistakes taking responsibility for the atrocities committed in Rwanda and apologise.

Rwanda’s foreign minister Rosemary Museminali was probably, calling on France to say sorry, when she said [as reported] that: This report is an important step of which France should be happy.”

For diplomacy, it is a very good basis, the relationship between Rwanda and France should be based on truth.” 
France delay in making apologies probably further stimulated the need for the Mucyo report by the Rwandan Government, for them to prove the case of France’s culpability in the genocide of the Tutsi.

Political analysts contend that the first step in dealing with diplomatic errors is by first acknowledge them.

You can not move to another step without accepting that the contentious issues exist; involving those aggrieved by the genocide. 

True, the apology will not be enough compared to the thousands of lives lost in the 100-day massacres, it can not satisfy a great number of traumatized genocide survivors. But it would be a first step towards warm ties.

France, certainly going by the report, has a lot to be sorry for having oiled the genocide machinery through  assistance in the preparations for the genocide, planning the massacres by the French military and actively taking part in the killings.

If the pious popes, leaders of one billion Catholics have come up to apologise for the sins of some of their ‘own’ then what makes France so special?

First it was 2000 when Pope John Paul 11 publicly begged God’s forgiveness for the sins of the Roman Catholics through the ages. This included the wrongs inflicted on the Jews, women and other minority groups.

Most recently, Pope Benedict xvi while in Australia was reported to have explicitly apologised [for the first time] to the victims of sex abuse by the catholic clergy.

Calling for the perpetrators of the evil to be brought to justice. “Here I would like to pause to acknowledge the shame which we have all felt as a result of the sexual abuse of minors by some clergy and religious in this country,” he was quoted saying.

The key word here is ‘acknowledgement.’ Pope Benedict xvi continued that he was “deeply sorry for the pain and suffering of the victims….I too share their suffering.”

Then he called for compensation for the victims of sexual abuse.

Let France acknowledge, say sorry and hand over those implicated in the report and pay reparations.

One thief among the clan taints the whole clan. In this respect the French should handover the bad apple among them; otherwise all French remain scorned by the world.

France should listen to her own voices. The voices of French civil society organisations and the media that have come up to support voicing concern at France’s culpability.

As reported by the French news paper Le Monde: “France can not be sure that its soldiers, caught in tarrying war alongside merciless killers, did not commit the murders, rapes and violence of which they are accused.”

Some civil society organisations seem to support the report arguing that the alleged French authorities should be put on trial for what they committed in 1994. The report implicates 33 French officials among them the former French President Fracois Mitterrand.

In Rwanda, unity and reconciliation is largely successful because the perpetrators of the genocide have accepted to own up their own past actions.

I have attended the traditional courts commonly called Gacaca, where genocide suspects openly seek forgiveness from Genocide survivors.

I have also covered a story where former inmates released on presidential pardon, knelt down and expressed remorse.

Although an apology can not erase the wrongs committed as pointed out earlier, it represents a sign of change of attitude.

It is only hoped that France would overcome the arrogance and say, yes we did this, but let us bury the hatchet and forge a new beginning.

The writer is a journalist. jtasamba@gmail.com

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