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Thursday, March 25, 2004

Bad news for France 

Rwandan President Paul Kagame plans to form a commission to investigate foreign involvement in his country's 1994 genocide, in which 800,000 people were killed in just 100 days.

France has long been accused of aiding the Hutu Power genocidaires in carrying out the killings.

France - which was former President Habyarimana's main backer - has denied the allegations, saying it sent troops to intervene and even saved many Rwandans.
I will let Philip Gourevitch, the author of We Wish to Inform You That Tomorrow We Will Be Killed with Our Familes do the talking here, to explain what a load of crap that is:

On the nights of June 16 and 18, arms shipments for the Hutu Power regime were landed, with French connivance, in the eastern Zairean city of Goma and shuttled over the border to Rwanda. But on June 22, the Security Council--eager to be relieved of its shame, and apparently blind to the extra shame it was bringing upon itself--endorsed the "impartial" French deployment, giving it a two-month mandate with the permission to use aggressive force that had systematically been denied to UNAMIR [The UN monitoring mission].

The next day, the first French troops of "Opération Turquoise" rolled from Goma into northwestern Rwanda, where they were welcomed by enthralled bands of interahamwe [roving bands of mass murderers]--singing, waving French tricolor flags, and carrying signs with slogans like "Welcome French Hutus"--while a disc jockey at RTLM advised Hutu women to gussy themselves up for the white men, taunting, "Now that the Tutsi girls are all dead, it's your chance..."

France's own ex-President, Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, accused the French command of "protecting some of those who had carried out the massacres..."

Opération Turquoise was eventually credited with rescuing at least ten thousand Tutsis in western Rwanda, but thousands more continued to be killed in the French-occupied zone. Hutu Power brigades draped their vehicles with French flags to lure Tutsis from hiding to their deaths; and even when real French troops found survivors, they often told them to wait for transport, then went away and returned to find that those they had "saved" were corpses. From the moment they arrived, and wherever they went, the French forces supported and preserved the same local political leaders who had presided over the genocide...

Even among the French troops who served in Opération Turquoise, some souls became troubled. "We have been deceived," Sergeant Major Thierry Prungnaud told a reporter at a collection site for emaciated and machete-scarred Tutsi survivors in early July of 1994. "This is not what we were led to believe. We were told that Tutsis were killing Hutus. We thought the Hutus were the good guys and the victims." But individual discomfort aside, the signal achievement of the Opération Turquoise was to permit the slaughter of Tutsis to continue for an extra month, and to secure safe passage for the genocidal command to cross, with a lot of its weaponry, into Zaire.
France has a lot to answer for, and a Rwandan commission to investigate France's involvement will be a great start. Beyond that, France is long overdue in looking inward and coming to terms with its role in the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of human beings. It's unlikely to happen, however, as France's main concern in Africa seems to be whether or not the French language is spoken there. During the genocide, they supported and armed the francophone Hutu Power killers against the anglophone Tutsi rebels of the RPF, who were fighting to end the massacre of their people.
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