The Rwandan Government has welcomed the findings of the Duclert Commission which was established by President Emmanuel Macron to assess the responsibility of the French Government in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The commission, led by French Historian Vincent Duclert, submitted the damning report to President Macron on Friday. Though the report fell short of confirming French responsibility, it concluded that France had “heavy and overwhelming responsibilities” in what happened in Rwanda.
The commission was established to ascertain what extent the French Government under Francoise Mitterrand was involved in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Rwanda maintains that France played an active role in the genocide, particular the French military, which is accused of training and arming genocidal forces under President Juvenal Habyarimana’s government.
“The Government of Rwanda welcomes the report of the Duclert Commission, which represents an important step toward a common understanding of France’s role in the Genocide against the Tutsi,” a statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation reads.
“An investigative report commissioned by the Government of Rwanda in 2017 will be released in the coming weeks, the conclusions of which will complement and enrich those of the Duclert Commission,” it added.
The report concluded that there was failure on France’s part and that the French government at the time was ‘blind’ to the preparation of the genocide -the closest France has come to admitting to its role.
The report however concluded that there is no evidence that France was complicit in the killings.
Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), in 2016 released a list of 20 high-ranking French officials who played an active role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The same year Rwanda said it would probe the role of the said officials.
The report that will be released in Kigali in the coming weeks will contain the findings of that probe. The release of the Duclert Commission will pave way for the release of Rwanda’s own findings.
Duclert handed over the damning report to Macron at the Elysee Palace nearly two years after the French President opened the investigation as part of efforts by Paris to normalize relations with Kigali.
Relations between the two countries have been tense for nearly three decades due to the French failure to acknowledge their role in the events in Rwanda pre-1994 and during the genocide against the Tutsi.
A separate investigation by French researcher, Francois Graner, into President Mitterrand’s archives on Rwanda, concluded that there was evidence of French military involvement in the genocide, urging France to own up to its role.
The research found that French military did not only train and arm militias, it also offered protection to perpetrators of the genocide. Graner also said French officials had ignored warning signs of the genocide.
“France also gave intense military support to keep the [genocidal] regime alive. Arms support continued secretly during and after the genocide,” said Graner, who was granted access to the archives by a French court.
Though the Duclert Commission confirmed that the French government worked in cahoots with the genocidal government, it concluded that there was no complicity.
“Is France an accomplice to the Genocide of the Tutsi? If by this we mean a willingness to join a genocidal operation, nothing in the archives that were examined demonstrates this,” the report reads.
“Nevertheless, for a long time, France was involved with a regime that encouraged racist massacres,” the report says, adding that Paris remained blind to the preparation of a genocide by extremists in the genocidal government.
The report also said President Mitterrand’s government considered President Habyarimana as the “Hutu ally” and the Tutsis, who had waged a liberation struggle, “enemies”.
Duclert Commission confirmed that the French government offered ‘military support’ but a little too late when the killings had already happened and as the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) forces advanced on Kigali.
“The research therefore establishes a set of responsibilities, both serious and overwhelming,” the report added.
The report also confirmed the fact that President Habyarimana’s plane was shot down by Hutu extremists in his government who did not want Arusha peace talks to continue.
The report also implicates the French intelligence and President Mitterrand’s inner circle which focus on preserving French or Francophone interests, rather than what was happening, in what was described as a ‘post-colonial thinking.
The report says Mitterrand and his government were more concerned by Rwanda being taken over by ‘English-speaking Tutsis’. It adds that Mitterrand maintained a ‘close and personal’ relationship with President Habyarimana.
The Duclert Commission, which was composed of 15 people, all French, concluded that France did not exercise its ‘moral obligation’ to act and to prevent the genocide.
A statement from the French Presidency said the Duclert Commission was able to rely on unprecedented access to all French archives relating to Rwanda.
“The President of the Republic praised the remarkable scientific work accomplished by the commission and stressed that this report marked a considerable step forward in the understanding and qualification of France’s commitment in Rwanda,”
“In the coming days, the two main archives relating to France’s engagement in Rwanda as well as all the documents cited in the commission’s report will be available,” President Macron said.
All eyes will now be on the Rwandan report which will come out in the next few weeks, which is likely to shed more light and evidence on the role of the French in Rwanda.
Rwanda has in the past, through different reports and records, highlighted the French complicity in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.