French minister calls Rwanda genocide claims 'intolerable'

8th August 2008, Comments 0 comments

French Defence Minister rejects Rwandan allegations, instead claiming that the military saved hundreds and thousands of human lives.

8 August 2008

PARIS - French Defence Minister Herve Morin on Thursday rejected as "intolerable" allegations by Rwanda that the French military played an active role in the 1994 genocide, saying French forces did "nothing wrong".

"I still remember what the military did to save hundreds and thousands of human lives in abominable conditions," Morin told state-funded Radio France Internationale (RFI).

Morin worked at the time under the then defence minister Francois Leotard, one of 13 politicians and 20 military officials named in a Rwandan report released Tuesday as responsible for the genocide.

He visited Rwanda shortly after the deployment of the French army's Operation Turquoise, a humanitarian mission deployed towards the end of the killings, from June to August 1994.

"These accusations are absolutely intolerable for the memory of the French soldiers who took part in this operation," he said.

Morin said a French parliamentary investigation on Rwanda had clearly shown that the "French military had done nothing wrong."

French admiral Jacques Lanxade, who was armed forces chief of staff in 1994, said the conduct of French troops in Rwanda had been "irreproachable", charging that the report from Kigali was politically-motivated.

"I am certain of the pureness of France's actions in this affair and naturally of the irreproachable behaviour of French troops," he told RFI, which widely broadcasts to francophone Africa.

General Jean Claude Lafourcade, who commanded Operation Turquoise in 1994, meanwhile released a written statement Thursday calling the accusations "baseless and disgraceful."

He said the United Nations had concluded that "France had successfully carried out all its agreed aims" in Operation Turquoise.

France and Rwanda severed diplomatic ties in 2006 after a top French judge accused Rwandan President Paul Kagame of involvement in the April 1994 killing of President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, whose death sparked the genocide.

"I think this report is president Kagame's response to the accusations made by France about his involvement in the attack on Habyarimana. As far as I am concerned, this is very political," Lanxade said.

The 500-page Rwandan report alleges that France was aware of preparations for the genocide, and that the French military in Rwanda helped to plan and carry out killings.

It accuses French troops in Operation Turquoise of acts of murder and rape against the Tutsi minority, principal victims of the genocide by Hutu extremists that left 800,000 people dead, according to the United Nations.

Kigali has said it hopes French officials will be indicted for war crimes on the basis of the report, which Paris has officially denounced as "unacceptable".

Paris has acknowledged making "mistakes" in Rwanda, but denies any responsibility for the genocide.

[AFP / Expatica]

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