FRANCE.RWANDA. Yes France knew... by Alain Gauthier. Billets d’Afrique N° 173, October 2008
Next April 2009 we will be marking the 15th year after the genocide of the Tutsi population of Rwanda as well as the massacre of a number of other Rwandan citizens opposed to the disastrous political course chosen by the Rwandan state in 1994. From now until then our monthly newsletter will publish a series of articles dedicated to the memory of this tragedy in which we will revisit the events leading up to this horrific slaughter. Survie continues to analyze the debt of reparation our government owes all the citizens of Rwanda, especially all the Tutsi survivors and their offspring. In this short article, Alain Gauthier president of the Collective of civil parties for Rwanda (CPCR), speaks for a group of French and Rwandan citizens engaged in an arduous legal precedent against French military personal. We are confident that our publications and legal commitments will contribute towards overcoming the taboo that still surrounds public debate on the responsibility of our top policy makers in this French debacle.
It’s no ground breaking revelation to say that France knew. It’s certainly not the recent publication of the Mucyo report by the Rwandan government that suddenly reveals to us something we never knew, even if most of our government officials are still in denial. Book shelves full of academic studies and journalist investigations have already contributed massively towards singling out France as the major foreign actor in this genocide by obstinately supporting and sustaining a faltering regime that in a last ditch effort to maintain power chose to make the extermination of its Tutsi minority the major theme for a come back. Our policy makers at the time knew perfectly well the mindset of their chosen partners in Rwanda, partners whom they buoyed up since 1991 with military consignments, technical advice and diplomatic stratagems instead of pressuring them into abandoning their crazy bet on applying racial solutions to political problems which in turn lead to the final ugly conclusion witnessed by all the world after April 1994.
Allow me to evoke some of my own personal remembrances of that time. January 29, 1993, after the heart-rending appeal on prime-time television of Jean Carbonare, then president of Survie, I wrote to Francois Mitterrand begging him to reason with the Rwandan chief of state, Juvenal Habyarimana. My letter ended with the supplication,” act quickly before it may be too late.” On February 15 I received an answer signed by Gaetan Gorce from the presidential office affirming that France was taking “an active role in Rwanda to allow all the parties in conflict to reach a global agreement in order to re-establish peace.”
As my letter had been transmitted to the Department of Foreign Affairs, I soon received another letter dated March 3 from a certain technical advisor, Emmanuel Delloye, which detailed all the past French interventions in Rwanda and underlined that “France has always been guided by the desire to stabilize and calm the situation.” Operation Noroît and its reinforcement in 1992 was justified by the necessity to protect our expatriates. Delloye’s reply evoked the non-respect by the Rwandan Patriotic Forces of the February 8 cease-fire agreement and reiterated that “France was deploying new efforts to bring the two conflicting parties into negotiations.” These diplomatically worded arguments did not in the least answer the pressing questions of my earlier letter.
When my wife returned precipitously from Kigali on March 1, I once again implored President Mitterrand to urgently impose upon his Rwandan counterpart, but this time my letter remained unanswered. At that point we realized the crash course events were going to take. Our policy makers also knew but continued to sustain a state apparatus full of individuals willing to try out the most radical of solutions i.e. massive assassinations.
The French mounted, military mission sent to Rwanda after July 5,1994 was called Operation Turquoise, and its Special Forces operatives permitted a great number of genocide planners and perpetrators to enter France, in particular ranking members of the Rwandan FAR army. Furthermore our government managed to enroll part of the Catholic Church to provide refuge for certain Rwandan clerics publicly accused of aiding and abetting the perpetrators. At this date Wenceslas Munyeshyaka continues his ministration in the small French town of Gisors; Claver Kamana is housed by the religious order of Saint-Joseph at Annecy; Dominique Ntawukuriyayo, the cousin of the archbishop of Kigali lives in Carcassone and works for Catholic Relief (Secours Catholic) and the Pastoral for migrants. After residing nearly 15 years in France these men have still not been arrested and brought to trial.
Although the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has given up trying to transfer Wenceslas Muneyshyaka and Laurent Bucyibaruta to the ICTR courtroom in Arusha, France has publicly engaged its government to bring them to trial in France. At this stage we have every reason to doubt that the legal demands and fixed delays of the ICTR will be respected by our judiciary, and our own patience is not unlimited. After 15 years the civilian parties seeking justice are now being told that our judiciary doesn’t posses the material means to work efficiently! On top of that France and Rwanda suspended relations in 2006 after the pitiful judicial manoeuvring of ex-judge Bruguière provoked the diplomatic rupture between Paris and Kigali, a legal imbroglio which doesn’t facilitate the work of the newly designated magistrates. To the extent that the judicial procedures were all initiated by accusations from individual plaintiffs or human rights associations like the CPCR, The League for Human Rights, the International Federation of Human Rights, the Rwandan Community of France as well as Survie we would like to be kept informed and more closely associated with the trail process.
The long ordeal of the civilian plaintiffs
Being a plaintiff in the case of genocide or complicity to commit genocide is no sinecure. It implies conforming oneself to an obstacle course where each successive barrier becomes more insurmountable. It means looking for and finding the presumed perpetrators who have slipped under cover or have found themselves a new identity that allows them to live amongst us unnoticed and unmolested. It means travelling to Rwanda to make inquiries, to check statements, to record confessions which certain repentant assassins are sometimes only willing to sign in exchange for a promise of reduced prison time. It means encountering Rwandan survivors so overwrought with anxiety, helplessness or indescribable sadness that to recount their suffering once more for the benefit of an outside investigation in France is often beyond their capacity of endurance. Hundreds of documents must be translated for our lawyers who practically work for free because we have no way of remunerating them properly. So many persons who have stuck with us throughout this arduous legal processes have seen their personal projects put on ice or have become irremediably discouraged confronted with our judiciary’s inertia. Most unbearable feelings of anger overcome us when we see survivors on the witness bench facing torturers who expect them to lower their gaze!
We have every reason to believe that the French presidential office knew perfectly well what was coming down in 1994,and today in 2008 it is our informed conviction that part of the highest judicial hierarchy is doing everything in its power to prevent the plaintiffs from bringing the genocide perpetrators into the courtroom. At a time when the extradition of Claver Kamana to Arusha was seriously under consideration, the Paris Appellate Court annulled the decision and set him free in a climate of general indifference. The same thing goes for the case of Bivugabagabo in Toulouse. As for Isaac Kamali he is free to come and go as he pleases since he managed to get French citizenship; he also seems to be awaiting the final decision of the judges with undisguised serenity. In all three cases no order for extradition has been issued, so we expect the Prosecutors office to follow suit. Of course if it doesn’t, we will have to go back to work ourselves and get ready to appeal the verdicts.
No one today can ignore the essential French factor in the macabre success of the genocide enterprise against the Tutsi minority even if most of the butchering was carried out under Rwandan direction. However by arming the perpetrators, by helping them set themselves up, then facilitating their flight out of the country and even providing refuge for many of them in France an ally turns into an accomplice. We need to know the truth; we need to see due process accomplished. France would go a long way to recovering a bit of honor by helping to bring all those accused of this odious crime against humanity to trial. We are not motivated by hatred or vengeance when we claim and reclaim justice for all the victims and their families. The French judiciary must assume its part in establishing the truth and creating some measure of justice to provide our citizens with the legal precedent that will help us find our way out of the moral wreckage encumbering Franco-African relations since 1994.
(Translated for Survie by AZ)