France denies its army aided Rwanda genocide

7th April 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, April 7 (AFP) - France does not share any extra blame in Rwanda's 1994 genocide and its troops were in no way involved in helping those who carried out the massacres, officials here said Wednesday, as the world marked the 10th anniversary of the bloodshed.

PARIS, April 7 (AFP) - France does not share any extra blame in Rwanda's 1994 genocide and its troops were in no way involved in helping those who carried out the massacres, officials here said Wednesday, as the world marked the 10th anniversary of the bloodshed.

French Defence Minister Michele Alliot-Marie angrily rejected accusations last month from Rwanda's current president, Paul Kagame, that the French military "supplied weapons, they gave orders and instructions to the perpetrators of genocide."

Those allegations, she told France Inter radio, were "completely groundless and even utterly scandalous."

She added: "Even if French soldiers were, unfortunately, unable to prevent all the massacres ... they nevertheless made it possible that there was not a total genocide."

Her comments came after a three-day international conference held in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, this week called for an investigation into the part played by France in events surrounding the killings which began on April 7, 1994, triggered the day after a plane carrying Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down.

At least 800,000 and as many as one million people were massacred, most of them by the then-Hutu army and extremist militias.

A book published last month that was written by a prominent French journalist, Patrick de Saint-Exupery, alleged, on the basis of interviews with French servicemen, that "soldiers from our country trained, under orders, the killers in the Tutsi genocide."

The finger-pointing at France and its role in French-speaking Rwanda up to and during the genocide has become more insistent in recent weeks as the 10th anniversary of the atrocity neared.

Although UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said in a statement released Wednesday that "neither the UN, nor the Security Council, nor member states in general, nor the international media, paid enough attention to the gathering signs of disaster," France rejected accusations it was especially to blame.

Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister at the time of the genocide, told RFI radio Wednesday that there was a campaign to inculpate France more than others.

Kagame, in a media conference March 25, said: "We cannot continue to pretend that we don't know the facts related to the involvement of French here in Rwanda before, during and after the genocide. These are facts."

Earlier in March, Le Monde newspaper reported that a French police investigation had found Kagame personally responsible for Habyarimana's assassination.

The Rwandan government has strongly denied the allegation that Kagame, who at the time led a mainly Tutsi rebel movement - which went on to seize Kigali and put an end to the massacres in July 1994 - was the "decision-maker" behind the missile attack.

Carla Del Ponte, the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, said during a visit to Paris on Wednesday that the victims of the genocide had been "somewhat forgotten".

She added that she believed the international community should assume its "moral responsibility" and help the many victims "who are still suffering."

© AFP

                                                   Subject: French news

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