French military ferried Hutus to slayings: witness

12th December 2006, Comments 0 comments

KIGALI, Dec 12, 2006 (AFP) - French military trucks ferried extremist Hutu militiamen to a mountain hideout in Rwanda to slaughter thousands of ethnic Tutsis during the 1994 genocide, an ex-member of the militia said Tuesday.

KIGALI, Dec 12, 2006 (AFP) - French military trucks ferried extremist Hutu militiamen to a mountain hideout in Rwanda to slaughter thousands of ethnic Tutsis during the 1994 genocide, an ex-member of the militia said Tuesday.

Testifying before a government-appointed panel probing France's alleged complicity in the massacres, he said French troops brought hundreds of Interahamwe to the Bisesero mountains to kill Tutsis seeking refuge there.

The man, identified only as "witness one on day two," told the commission that the Tutsis in the mountains of western Rwanda had been resisting Hutu efforts to overrun the area and had killed two Rwandan gendarmes.

"The French were very upset when they saw the bodies," said the 35-year-old who admitted to killing "many Tutsis." "They immediately offered us their trucks to transport our men to the mountains to provide reinforcement."

Referring constantly to the killings as 'work' — a popular euphemism during the genocide, the witness said he and other Interahamwe fighters with the help of the French had broken through the Tutsi defenses and "killed very many."

The Bisesero mountains were part of "Zone Tourquoise," an area in southwest Rwanda where a French military operation was providing humanitarian assistance at the peak of the genocide in which some 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were massacred by Hutu radicals.

The witness also testified that six French soldiers watched the murder of about 50 Tutsis at the Camp Gisenyi military barracks in northwest Rwanda where they were military advisers.

"We loaded the bodies of the victims onto trucks and dumped them at a place called 'Zone Rouge'," he said.

France backed the Hutu-led government of the late Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose assassination triggered the genocide, against Tutsi rebels headed by now President Paul Kagame.

France denies any culpability in the genocide and says its troops instead helped save Tutsis by running the UN-endorsed "Tourquoise" mission.

But seething anger over an alleged French role and allegations by a French judge against Kagame and current senior Rwandan officials in Habyarimana's death led Kigali last month to sever diplomatic relations with Paris.

The inquiry panel, which wrapped up initial public hearings in October, resumed open sessions Monday with testimony from two Rwandan ex-soldiers who said France armed and trained those blamed for most of the killings.

The ex-Interahamwe member said on Tuesday that he had participated in transporting weapons from a French military plane in the former Zaire, now Democratic Republic of Congo, to the north Rwanda province of Gisenyi.

"These guns were distributed to different military units and militias manning roadblocks", he said, adding that the shipment was "escorted into Rwanda by French soldiers."

The inquiry commission is charged with determining if there is enough evidence for Kigali to file suit against Paris at the world court.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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