Paris slams ‘humiliating lies’it helped in Rwanda genocide
MARSEILLE, France, April 9 (AFP) - French junior foreign minister Renaud Muselier has described charges by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame that France was complicit in the 1994 genocide as "unacceptable, humiliating and lying".
In an interview with the Marseille daily La Provence published Friday, Muselier said the allegations Rwandan officials have pressed home this week were “unacceptable, humiliating and lying with respect to Europe, the international community and France.”
On Wednesday, Muselier cut short a visit to Kigali after Kagame, in a speech commemorating the 10th anniversary of the outbreak of the organised killing of at least 800,000 people, renewed a verbal onslaught on the French.
“They knowingly trained and armed the government soldiers and militias who were going to commit genocide and they knew they were going to commit genocide,” Kagame told a ceremony at the country’s national stadium.
“I regret that memories and polemics have been mixed up,” Muselier said in the interview. “There are individual and collective responsibilities (for the Rwandan genocide), but time will enable the history of it to be told objectively.”
On Thursday, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said that France would study the Rwandan allegation, but not until after a week of commemoration of the victims of 100 days of killing of Rwanda’s minority Tutsis and of Hutus opposed to the genocide.
“We will examine the situation in depth, but because of this week of contemplation I have nothing to add at this stage,” Barnier told a news conference.
French government figures from the time such as former prime minister Alain Juppe have angrily denied prior French knowledge of the genocide, which was unleashed on April 7, 1994, a day after Rwanda’s Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down over Kigali.
The Rwandan government says that a million people were massacred before Kagame, then the leader of a Tutsi rebel force, seized Kigali and routed the Hutu killers in July 1994.
“Serious accusations, contrary to the truth, were made against France,” Barnier said on Thursday. “Because we think this week is a week of contemplation and of commemoration and not one for controversy, we chose to withdraw in a dignified way.”
Kagame’s special envoy for the central African Great Lakes region, Richard Sezibera, on Thursday said the Rwandan government hoped France “would study the matter in depth.”
“We would hope they would come clean on the role of French troops and French officers in Rwanda and we hope that France will no longer deny its role in the genocide in Rwanda,” he told AFP.
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Belgium as the former colonial power in Rwanda, and the United States have all expressed regret and apologies that the international community failed to halt the genocide, but France has made no such statement.
A book published last month by 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.”
Relations further deteriorated when the Paris newspaper Le Monde published allegations that Kagame had ordered the missile attack on Habyarimana’s aircraft.
Hubert Vedrine, a senior aide to Socialist president Francois Mitterrand from 1991 to 1995, said that French action had been aimed at averting the massacres that “everyone” feared, but admitted the policy had failed.
Speaking Thursday on Radio France Internationale, Vedrine said France had trained the mainly Hutu army to defend itself against attacks from Uganda, which backed the RPF.
In return, France demanded that Habyarimana’s government move to establish power-sharing with the Tutsis, he said.
“The objective of this French policy – alas – clearly failed. But its aim was to stop a return to massacres, to try to get over this Hutu-Tutsi issue which is still not resolved today,” he said.
Subject: French news