Newly evidence documents the role of the French regime in the 1994 Rwanda genocide — and has, once again, put the spotlight on this tragic event and the role of foreign imperialists in it.
In early August 2008, the Rwandan government released a report based on eyewitness accounts that the direct cooperation between the French state and the government of Rwandan Hutus that was in power during the 1994 genocide. This report is consistent with the results of investigations performed by various other organizations, including human rights groups.
According to the Rwandan government, 33 politicians and French army officers are implicated in the infamous genocide in Rwanda, either by giving orders or by their direct actions. The late president Francois Mitterrand, his son Jean Christophe, Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, Alain Juppe and his foreign minister at the time were among the indicated responsible parties.
The background for these events (which annihilated a generation) was the country’s severe economic crisis caused by actions of the International Money Fund and the World’s Bank. For example, in the name of economic reform, the value of the Rwandan currency was sharply devalued. This, in turn, caused changes in the world trade market that triggered a severe drop in Rwanda’s export of key crops like coffee.
On April 4,1994, the Tutsis forces of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), operating with direct US support, shot a missile at a plane, causing the death of the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana. In the wake of this, the Rwandan regime, urged on by Hutu extremists, unleaded a campaign of vendetta.
The Interahamwe paramilitary force was mobilized to slaughter innocent Tutsi tribespeople and Hutus caught protecting Tutsis. Meanwhile, the French regime sent 2,550 air and ground forces to support the Rwandan state against the RPF. The Rwandan report cites numerous instances of the French forces involved in the killing or giving orders to those who did the killing.
Tutsis and the Hutus, who allegedly were suspected of hiding Tutsis, were executed and their wives raped. From the time of Rwandan occupation, raping women prisoners has been done routinely and systemically by the French soldiers.
Based on direct testimony, some of the atrocious crimes that occurred during the Rwandan genocide had French help. French forces made their bases in the Niaroshishi area. Those foreign bases were protected by Rwandan military forces and the local pro-government paramilitaries.
In one incident three unarmed youth were chased out of a local tea farm and ran toward a French camp. The police and paramilitaries followed the three youth into camp and arrested them with the help of French soldiers and they were never heard from again.
A former member of the Hutu pro-government paramilitaries testifies:
“We rounded up the Tutsis who had exited their camps to gather some wood (including Charles, the teenager who was son of Sambaba,) and killed them. We then buried them in mass graves near guard postings. The French companies came over to check out what we were doing and praised us, gave us meals to express their appreciation and sometimes went out with us during nightly patrolling.”
This genocide went on until over 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates were slaughtered. Finally. Returning Tutsi forces caused over two million of the Hutu population to flee for their lives into adjacent countries.
After the publication of this Rwandan report, the French state has deceitfully denied its role and tries to ignore the report. Those French politicians named in it have counter-charged that the report authors falsified evidence. For example, Harry Maurine, (who was French Minister of Defence during the 1994 genocide) declared that this report is unacceptable and that the soldiers of France have done nothing to be ashamed of.
Even after gathering the evidence and producing this report, the Rwandan state has been complacent in holding the French army accountable for their actions. Instead of making the main perpetrators liable for those crimes, the Rwandan state has busied itself arresting Tutsi villagers. Instead of highlighting the roles of imperialists in the mass killing, the country instead arrested over 50,000 people of the Tutsi tribe.
But, due to prison overcrowding, the state had to release about 40 thousand from their jails. The first group to be freed included the sick and the elderly in 2003. Though the government said that their freedom was temporary and conditional and that their final fate would be announced in their local courthouses (called GAKAKA.) Since March 2005, about 12,000 local courthouses were established in villages all over Rwanda to try the released. Most of them were declared innocent.
Historical discords among Tutsi and Hutu Tribes
Before imperialism’s encroachment, the Tutsi and Hutu were living alongside each other in villages and houses of Rwanda country. Tutsi pastoralists and Hutu agriculturalists were organized into small Bantu-speaking states. At the end of World War 1 the Belgium colonizers secured their domination over Rwanda’s people by dividing the two tribes from each other through the use of the eugenics movement in Europe and the United States. They declared the Hutus and Tutsis were two different “races” and issued them a racial identification card which defined each person legally as either Hutu or Tutsi.
By the end of the 1950s, growing political instability ensued rebellions that caused the deaths of between 20,000 and 100,000 Tutsis. By 1959, the royal regime of Tutsi tribe was overthrown and many of this tribe’s people escaped to neighboring states or were expelled to Uganda and the first Tutsi Refugee camps were established.
In 1962 Belgium let go of Rwanda, and that country supposedly became independent. But the civil wars between various imperialist-dependent groups and tribes continued for many years. These wars naturally caused citizens to flee and take refuge in neighboring countries. Uganda applied some of the most inhumane laws and regulations on those refugees. Refugees in Ugandan camps were confined in conditions with less than the basic means of survival. The status of “refugee” was bequeathed on the children that were born in Ugandan refugee camps and they were not recognized as any country’s citizens. Eventually the number of refugees in Ugandan camps had risen so much that the state was forced to let children out of the camps. And in some cases they were able to use opportunities under the United Nations refugee organization to leave Uganda and settle in other countries.
During the political crisis of the late 1960s, the Ugandan administration of Milton Obote passed a bill called the Control of Alien Refugees Act, which declared Rwandese to be a special class subject to arbitrary detention. In 1969 Obote deported all foreigners (this included the descendants of Hutus who had come as migrant laborers in the mid-1920s, and the more recent Tutsi refugees) from Uganda.
This article was originally published in Payam Fedaee #115. We Thank comrade Behrooz Navaii, for translating and telling us about this.