The Minister of Justice, Tharcis Karugarama, has dismissed the recent military honours by French President Nicolas Sarkozy accorded to several soldiers who served in Rwanda, as an internal matter for that country, despite the role some of them played in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The men honoured include; Col Jacques Hogard who was the head of the controversial French military expedition in Cyangungu referred to as Operation Turquoise, Colonel Jean-Jacques Maurin senior officer with the French mission in Rwanda ; Colonel Michel Robardey senior advisor to the mission and Colonel Etienne Joubert, head of the Gikongoro operations.
The French award, the “Ordre Nationale de la Legion d’Honneur”, was established in 1820 by Napoleon Bonaparte. The order is generally not exclusively awarded for military service.
“Questions of giving medals of honour to French military is purely an internal matter of the French government,” Karugarama said.
“It’s not me or for the government of Rwanda to determine other countries’ heroes.”
I need to emphasize that France as a country has the capacity to know who deserves the honour, it’s not for us to judge”
“I can only hope that the medals they received are not in respect of their ‘heroic’ acts they performed in Rwanda”.
The honoured officials featured prominently in the Mucyo Commission report which details the complicity and active participation of France in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The report names a total of 33 French citizens who had major roles in enabling the Genocide.
It is a 500-page document that meticulously records the complicity of French officials and the French government in the planning, preparation and execution of the Genocide by the genocidal regime of the late Juvenal Habyarimana.
Rwanda released findings of a two year investigation in 2008. Commenting on the current relationship with France, Karugarama said that President Nicolas Sarkozy’s administration and the government of Rwanda are working towards improving their relationship.
“Restoring our diplomatic relations will be possible as and when the grounds that led to the breakdown of diplomatic relations have been sorted or ironed out effectively,” the minister added.
Relations between the two countries hit a low when Rwanda broke off its diplomatic ties with Paris, after a French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière issued warrants for the arrest for nine Rwandan military officials.
More than one million people died in the 100-day Genocide of the Tutsi.