France has withdrawn from the 20th anniversary memorial of the Rwandan genocide in response to Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s statements about French complicity in the genocide that killed over 800,000.
President Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) ended the genocide by defeating the government forces and associated militias. The government forces were trained and supplied by France. Accusations of French involvement in the genocide and in the evacuation of leaders of the mass murder are not new. In 2007, the Rwandan Foreign
Minister, Charles Murigande said
Rwandan President Paul Kagame
France wants to blame us, the ones whose families were murdered, the ones who put a stop to the murderers; they want to blame us for the genocide because they cannot face their own guilt. The French armed the killers and they trained them even when they were saying they were going to kill the Tutsis, and France supported the genocide regime right up until the end, even helping the killers to escape.
France unsuccessfully pursued an indictment against Kagame for his part in the death of Juvenal Habyarimana, the Rwandan President whose death sparked the genocide. He was killed in a crash after his plane was downed by a rocket.
Gianluigi Guercia, AFP/File
Skulls of victims of the Ntarama massacre during the 1994 Rwanda genocide lie in the Genocide Memorial Site church in Nyamata February 27, 2004
Cutting the tall trees
The night of Habyarimana’s plane crash, the killings began. By morning, the Rwandan Army and complicit Hutu militia had established roadblocks to check IDs of passersby. Those whose papers identified the bearer as an ethnic Tutsi were pulled from their vehicles and killed by either machete or club.
Radio broadcasts begin urging Hutus to kill Tutsis. Denis Bagaruka admitted the broadcasts effect in an interview with Frontline.
We heard the radio telling us to be strong and to cut down the tall trees. Our local leader explained these trees were the Tutsis. We were listening to the radio and, because of that and what the soldiers were urging, we started to kill our neighbors.
France began evacuating their citizens. No Rwandans, even those working in the French Embassy were evacuated. The ethnic Tutsis that worked in the embassy were killed by the Hutu militia and government forces when they were located.
Innocent Rwililiza said later
The French knew that a genocide was in preparation, since they advised our army.
Just four days into the genocide 32,000 people had been exterminated. Four days after that the number had doubled to 64,000. Another four days later, the international community abandons Rwanda and withdraws 90 percent of peacekeepers in the country. The death toll just 12 days into the conflict and 112,000 had already perished.
Dallaire's book Shake Hands with the Devil, on the Rwandan genocide
Some peacekeepers on the ground in Rwanda refused to abandon the people and disobeyed UN orders to evacuate. Ghanaian General Anyidoho was one of those who refused to leave, and instead used his position and forces to prop up Canadian General Dallaire’s efforts to stabilize the country.
Three weeks into crisis, the UN had removed all but 450 of Dallaire’s forces. The member nations of the UN Security Council were doing anything they could to avoid using the term “genocide,” as the term would legally bind them to act.
US State Department spokesperson Christine Shelley saidthe use of the term 'genocide' has a very precise legal meaning, although it's not strictly a legal determination. There are other factors in there as well…we have to undertake a very careful study before we can make a final kind of determination
After 77 days, the Rwandan rebels had almost broken the government’s forces and were on the verge of victory when the international community finally decided to intervene. The UN approved a 60-day mission, to be conducted by the French. The death toll had reached 616,000. When the French arrived, the nation’s 3,000 soldiers established what was referred to as the “turquoise zone.” The zone quickly became the new base of operations for the genocide. The infamous radio broadcasts urging Hutus to “cut the tall trees” began originating from inside the French zone.
General Dallaire commented on the French assistance in the peacekeeping efforts.
While I was talking about the ongoing genocide, [the French] staff were raising points about the loyalty France owed to old friends. They refused to accept the reality of the genocide and the fact that the extremist leaders, the perpetrators, and some their old colleagues were the same people
P. Pizarro / A. Bommenel, AFP
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda
Twenty-two days after the French arrival, the Rwandan rebels were able to seize the capital city and drive out the genocidal government. The government fled to Zaire with French assistance. The death toll stopped climbing at just over 800,000 people dead in 100 days.
United States Department of State
Wanted poster for fugitives wanted for the w:Rwandan Genocide made by the US Government for the Rewards for Justice program to assist the w:International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.