France refutes Rwanda genocide attack

18th March 2004, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, March 18 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Thursday that Paris had saved hundreds of thousands of lives in Rwanda in 1994, refuting President Paul Kagame's allegations that the French were directly involved in the genocide.

PARIS, March 18 (AFP) - French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said Thursday that Paris had saved hundreds of thousands of lives in Rwanda in 1994, refuting President Paul Kagame's allegations that the French were directly involved in the genocide.

"We intervened at the request of the United Nations, in an extremely tense situation, in order to avert an upward spiral in the number of victims," de Villepin told France's state-owned Radio France Internationale.

"Several thousand, several hundred thousand lives were spared because of this intervention," he added.

On Tuesday, Kagame accused France of "directly" taking part in the 1994 genocide in his country by supplying arms and giving orders to those who massacred up to one million people, most of them ethnic Tutsis, in the central African country.

His attack on the French came a week after Le Monde newspaper reported that a French police investigation had found him personally responsible for the assassination of his predecessor Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, whose death in a rocket attack on his airplane in April 1994 triggered the Rwanda massacres.

"The French were there when the genocide took place. They trained those who carried it out. They had positions of command in the armed forces who committed the genocide," Kagame told RFI.

"They also directly participated in operations by putting up road blocks to identify people by ethnic origin, punishing the Tutsis and supporting the Hutus," the Rwandan president said.

De Villepin categorically rejected Kagame's claims, saying: "I really don't think that is in keeping with the truth of history. I think this controversy is particularly uncalled for."

The day after the plane carrying Habyarimana was shot down, Hutu extremist militias and the Rwandan army, which at the time was controlled by Hutus, launched a 100-day massacre, in which least 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus opposed to the slaughter were killed.

Kagame led his mainly Tutsi rebels to seize Kigali and put an end to the orgy of violence in July 1994.

He has effectively led Rwanda since then, having been elected president by parliament in 2000 and re-elected with 95 percent of votes cast in a popular election in August last year, which the European Union has said was tarnished by fraud.

He has denied the report in Le Monde that said he was the primary "decision-maker" behind the attack on Habyarimana.

France, which was Habyarimana's main international backer, sent 2,500 troops to Rwanda, but was accused of doing nothing to stop -- if not actually colluding in -- the massacres.

It denies the charge, frequently made in the past by Kagame and the RPF, that it played an active role.

The 10th anniversary of the killings, in which the government says up to a million people died, will be marked next month.

© AFP

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