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France will open an archive for the period covering the Rwandan genocide

Paris (AP) – Prior to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, France’s role during that time was a “monumental failure” that the country must accept, says the lead author of a report commissioned by President Emanuel Macron as the country prepares to open its archives. period to the public.

A report released in March concluded that the French authorities remained blind to the preparations for the genocide because they supported the “racist” “violent” government of then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and then reacted too slowly to assess the scale of the killings. But it cleared them of complicity in the massacre that killed more than 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis-Hutus, who were trying to protect them.

Macron’s decision to open the “archives” to the Mac is part of his efforts to maximize the role of the French in the genocide, to make rapprochement with Rwanda, including April 7, the day the massacre began. Commemoration. Although it is long overdue, these steps can finally help the two countries reconcile.

Historian Vincent Dülert, who chaired a commission investigating France’s actions in Rwanda from 1990 to 1994, told the Associated Press that “for 30 years, the debate over Rwanda has been full of lies, violence, manipulation, and threats of trial. It was a suffocating atmosphere. “

Duklert noted that it is possible to accept the role of France for what it is. “Monumental failure”.

“Now we have to tell the truth,” he added. “And that truth, we hope, (France) will allow dialogue, reconciliation with Rwanda and Africa.”

In a statement, Macron said the report was a “major step forward” in understanding France’s actions in Rwanda.

About 8,000 archival documents that the commission examined over two years, including some previously classified ones, will be made available to the public on Wednesday, the 27th anniversary of the killings.

Dulekter says the documents, mainly from the French presidency and the prime minister’s office, show how then-President Francois Mitterrand and a small group of diplomats and military officials around him shared views inherited from colonial times, including a desire to maintain influence over the French. This prompted them to continue supporting Habyarimana despite warning signs, including through weapons supply and military training in the years leading up to the genocide.

“Instead of ultimately supporting democratization and peace in Rwanda, the French authorities in Rwanda supported ethnicization, the radicalization of the (Habyarimana) government,” Ducklert said.

France was “not complicit in the crime of genocide,” he said, but “its actions contributed to the strengthening of (genocide) mechanisms.”

“And that is a huge intellectual responsibility,” he said.

The speech also criticized France’s “passive policy” in April-May 1994, at the height of the genocide.

“It was a terribly missed opportunity,” Duklert said. “In 1994, it was possible to stop the genocide; it did not happen. France and the world have a significant guilt. “

Eventually, they began to enter. On June 22, Operation Turquoise was launched, led by France, with UN-backed military intervention.

Duklert said France’s “blindness should be questioned, perhaps tried”, although he insisted it was not the commission’s role to bring charges.

The Activists’ visit was hailed as an important step by activists who had long hoped that France would formally recognize its responsibility for the genocide. During a visit to Rwanda in 2010, then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted that his country had made “judgmental mistakes” in the genocide, “political mistakes”, but the report could allow Macron to go further.

Rwandan Gauthier of Rwanda, who lost more than 80 members of his family in the massacre, hailed it as “a major document against genocide denial”.

“For 27 years or so, we have been in a kind of fog,” said Gauthier, who with her husband, Allen, formed a civil plaintiff team for Rwanda, a French group that seeks to prosecute alleged criminals. genocide “The sign clearly states things.”

There may also be a change in the attitude of the Rwandan authorities, who welcomed the report in a brief statement but did not respond in detail. They said they would “supplement or enrich” the findings of their forthcoming report.

This is different from the firm claims of Rwanda’s French complicity, as it was in 2017. Relations between the two countries, which have been strained for years since the genocide, improved during Macron’s presidency.

Rwandan Feligien Kabuga, who has long been wanted for his alleged role in supplying toothpicks to assassins, was arrested last May near Paris.

And in July, the Paris Court of Appeal upheld the decision to suspend the investigation into the plane crash that killed Habyarimana for many years, confirming the genocide. The investigation was sharpened by the Rwandan government as it targeted several people close to President Paul Kagame for their alleged role, accusations they denied.

“Now it seems that the Rwandan authorities will accept the ‘olive branch’ from Paris,” said Desmas Nkunda, head of the Watch Africa Africa monitoring group, which covered the genocide as a journalist.

“Maybe they say, ‘The past is the past.’ “Let’s move on,” he said of the Rwandan authorities.

The Goths say the report ությունը access to archives can also help bring activists to justice for those involved in the genocide, including French officials who served at the time.

There have been three Rwandan nationals convicted of genocide in France so far, they said. Four more people are expected to stand trial. This is one of about 30 complaints against Rwandans living in France, which their group has filed with the authorities.

They are still “very few” compared to the more than 100 alleged criminals who are believed to live in France.

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Associated Press reporters Paris Effie Schaefer in Paris և Rodney Muhumuza in Kampala, Uganda contributed to this report.

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