France was “blind” to the genocide preparations in Rwanda in 1994 and bears “heavy and overwhelming responsibilities” in the tragedy, a report by French historians said but they found no evidence of French complicity.
The report published on Friday concluded “France failed Rwanda” between 1990 and 1994 and highlighted Paris’ blindness to the “racist, corrupt and violent” regime.
At least 800,000 people died, when ethnic Hutu extremists massacred minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, according to the United Nations.
The massacres were carried after the assassination of the then Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994 in a plane crash.
The report, commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron, added that Kigali, Kampala and Paris sent warnings of the genocide.
But it highlighted that nothing demonstrated France was an accomplice in the genocide,
The report concluded that in July 1994 “murderers but also the masterminds of the genocide” were in a safe zone established by French forces in the west of the country “who the French political authorities refused to arrest.”
The report stressed the responsibility laid on the former socialist president François Mitterrand, who was in office at the time of the genocide.
Mitterrand and his inner circle were also fearful of the encroachment of English-speaking influence into francophone Africa under influence from Uganda and the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) of Kagame.
The report tells of French decision-makers trapped in “post-colonial” thinking who supported the “racist, corrupt and violent” regime of Habyarimana facing to a Tutsi rebellion considered as directed from English-speaking Uganda.
Macron ordered the creation of the commission in May 2019 to analyse France’s role in Rwanda from 1990-1994 through archival research.
France notably led Operation Turquoise, a military-humanitarian intervention launched by Paris under a UN mandate between June and August 1994. Its critics believe that it was in reality aimed at supporting the genocidal Hutu government.
And there have also been repeated accusations that authorities in Paris helped suspects in the Rwanda genocide to escape while under French military protection.
The report has been submitted to Macron, who has taken tentative steps to come to terms with once taboo aspects of the country’s historical record.
France said that the document will help develop and improve relations with Rwanda, the Elysee said on Friday.
“We hope that this report will be able to lead to other developments in our relationship with Rwanda” a statement from the presidency read.
“This time, the process of rapprochement can be started in an irreversible way,” it added.
Paris also said the return of a French ambassador to Kigali in the coming months would be an additional step to normalising relations.
The commission chaired by historian Vincent Duclert was set up in 2019 by Macron, who has shown his eagerness to develop certain sensitive historical files.