French outlet Mediapart has revealed how Paris ordered Rwandan war criminals involved in the 1994 genocide to escape.
A recently obtained confidential document from official French archives, published by French online outlet Mediapart, has revealed that during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, Paris allowed the perpetrators to escape while ignoring a request by its own ambassador to arrest them.
For many, the development that has come through a diplomatic telegram sent back in 1994, sheds light on the missing piece of a dark episode in history. It reveals that the French government at the time inexplicably let criminals flee.
Francois Graner, research director of the French National Research Center (CNRS), was able to gain access to the archives after a long legal battle. Graner has been studying official archives related to Paris’s role in the Rwandan genocide.
According to Mediapart, French diplomat Yannick Gerard, in a telegram on July 15, 1994 from Rwanda, sought instructions from Paris on “personalities almost all of which are considered responsible for the massacres” who had arrived in a refugee camp run by the French military in Gisenyi, on the border with Zaire.
The cable said: “We have publicly informed them their presence in the area was not desired” and “they would be put under house arrest until their surrender to the United Nations.”
In response, Bernard Emie, the then-advisor to Foreign Minister Alain Juppe and the current director of the General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), wrote:
"You can use all indirect channels, and especially your African contacts, to convey to these officials (under the control of the French army) that we ask them to leave the Safe Humanitarian Aid Zone, without directly disclosing yourself. The international community, and in particular the United Nations, will follow against these so-called authorities. Underline that you can determine the path very soon."
Gerard followed the instructions and allowed the perpetrators to flee. He opened the closed borders and sent them there with vehicles.
As Francois Graner explains to Anadolu Agency, Gerard’s collusion in this act means that 14 French government officials were involved in the decision, a group that included the prime minister and many other official ministers, played a role in the genocide.
Paris’s complicity in providing material support to the genocide has come to the fore following the testimonies of survivors and archival documents. However, Graner emphasised that this time, it also revealed that the French government gave a specific order allowing the perpetrators to freely bolt and shirk accountability.
“This document shows how France took this decision and wanted it done secretly. It came from the Foreign Ministry headed by Juppe,” Graner says.
As per the details obtained by Graner, it appears the decision was taken even before the UN Security Council in New York could decide whether the criminals should be arrested.
Commenting further on the issue, Graner told Anadolu Agency that France was the only country that accepted the representatives of the government whose establishment it supported.
“During the genocide, in April 1994, two representatives were hosted in the Prime Ministry, the Foreign Ministry, and the Elysee Palace," he said.
"This is political evidence of France's continued support for an extremist Hutu group before, during, and after the genocide. France relied on them to keep the region under its influence."
Graner stressed the grave consequences of France's support for the genocide against the ethnic Tutsis.
What happened in Rwanda?
The Rwandan genocide took place between April and June 1994, where an estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed in the space of 100 days. Most of the dead were of the Tutsi minority and most of those who fuelled the violence were Hutus. Thousands of women from the tribe were raped and villages were left torched and pillaged.
The genocide was sparked by the death of the Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport on April 6, 1994.
The French army, which was deployed under the UN peacekeeping mission, established a safe humanitarian zone in Rwanda and the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, the real intention behind France’s humanitarian intervention has been questioned since 1994, with some saying the safe corridor controlled by the French army was a cover to shield the forces behind the planned killing.
Previously, Rwanda accused France of being complicit in the genocide through its support for the Hutu-led government and in lending their help to allow the perpetrators escape. Paris has consistently denied having any part in the bloodshed, even though the former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010 acknowledged Paris had made "serious errors of judgement".
In 2016, Rwanda implicated 22 French military officers for their direct role in the genocide.
Although France has denied claims of its role in supporting the Hutu regime against the Tutsis, it has provided refuge to some figures who were accused of planning and carrying out the genocide.
Agathe Kanziga, the wife of assassinated President Habyarimana, who is an alleged powerful figure of the inner Hutu circle responsible for planning the violence, has been living in France. In 2011, France refused an extradition request.
Last year, Felicien Kabuga, known as the financier of the genocide, was arrested after he was found to be hiding in France for 26 years.
According to information gathered by an NGO called the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda, approximately 30 people who are allegedly responsible for the genocide are believed to be living as refugees in France.