France slams Rwanda genocide claims
France condemns Rwandan report that says French officials have helped plan and carry out killings in 1994 genocide.7 August 2008
PARIS - France on Wednesday condemned as "unacceptable" allegations by Rwanda that it had played an active role in the 1994 genocide, as Kigali said it hoped French officials would be indicted for war crimes.
A 500-page report released Tuesday in the Rwandan capital alleged that France was aware of preparations for the genocide, and that the French military in Rwanda helped to plan and carry out killings.
It names 13 senior politicians and 20 military officials as responsible and raises the prospect of Rwandan legal action against them.
"This report contains unacceptable accusations made against French political and military officials," French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal told reporters, in Paris' first official reaction.
Nadal cast doubt on the "objectivity" of the Rwandan commission that produced it, which was explicitly asked to "gather evidence showing the implication of the French state in the genocide carried out in Rwanda in 1994".
He added that France had not received the report through official channels.
Former French foreign minister Alain Juppe, one of the 13 named politicians who also include the late French president Francois Mitterrand, accused Kigali of an "insidious" attempt to rewrite history.
Rwandan Information Minister Louise Mushikiwabo further upped the stakes Wednesday by saying she hoped the French officials named would be indicted for war crimes.
"The government has asked the courts to use this report. We hope that legal proceedings will follow," she said.
Quoted separately in Britain's Financial Times newspaper, she said the report would be considered as the basis for charges which could lead to the first bid by an African nation to extradite European nationals for war crimes.
"We don't believe any French citizen or other citizen is above the law, especially when it comes to crimes as serious as genocide," she said.
"We hope the French will take this report as seriously as Rwanda has taken it and, when the indictments come out, will co-operate."
IBUKA, a Rwandan association for genocide survivors, also urged France to prosecute its citizens accused in the report.
"The French judiciary should be the first to bring French criminals to justice," said
IBUKA president Theodore Simburudari.
France's foreign ministry said Wednesday it would not let the report further sour relations between France and Kigali, which severed diplomatic ties in November 2006 over the question of responsibility for the genocide.
"Our determination to build a new relationship with Rwanda, moving beyond our difficult past, remains intact," said ministry spokesman Nadal.
He highlighted a meeting in December between President Nicolas Sarkozy and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame, and a visit to Kigali by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner as steps towards warming ties.
France and Rwanda severed diplomatic ties in 2006 after a top French judge accused Kagame and his entourage of involvement in the April 1994 killing of president Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, whose death sparked the genocide.
In July, Kagame threatened to indict French nationals over the genocide if European courts did not withdraw arrest warrants issued against Rwandan officials.
The 100-day killing spree in the central African nation left around 800,000 people dead, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, according to the United Nations.
France had military advisors present in Rwanda in the period leading up to the genocide.
It later took the command of Operation Turquoise, a humanitarian mission deployed towards the end of the killings, from June to August 1994.
Paris has acknowledged making "mistakes" in Rwanda but denies any responsibility for the genocide.
Juppe, who was head of French diplomacy from April 1993 to May 1995, referred AFP to a text published on his Internet blog early this year in which he denounced Rwandan efforts to incriminate Paris.
"In the past few years, we have seen an insidious attempt to rewrite history. It aims to turn France from an involved party into an accomplice to the genocide," Juppe wrote in January. "It is an unacceptable falsification.
"During my time as head of French diplomacy, we did everything we could to help the reconciliation of Rwandans."
[AFP / Expatica]