Tuesday, March 23, 2021

French General Rejects Allegations Over Army's Role in Rwanda Genocide


Mar 22, 2021 07:58 PM

French armed forces chief of staff General Francois Lecointre on Sunday dismissed as "completely crazy" allegations that France helped suspects in the 1994 Rwanda genocide to escape justice.

"I have read these accusations which I find insufferable and completely crazy," Lecointre said on BFM TV. "It's an insult to our soldiers," added Lecointre, who himself served in France's Operation Turquoise in Rwanda as an army captain.

Tensions have remained fraught between Rwanda and France, which has always denied claims that it sided with the Hutu regime and failed to stop the surge in anti-Tutsi hatred following the 1994 assassination of then-president Juvenal Habyarimana.

According to a diplomatic cable which has recently come to light, authorities in Paris helped suspects in the Rwanda genocide to escape while under French military protection. 

The document, written by France's then envoy to Rwanda and obtained by AFP, suggests that Paris knew suspects had sought refuge in a "humanitarian safe zone" controlled by French soldiers. The soldiers had arrived in June 1994 as part of the UN-mandated Operation Turquoise to stop the massacres that left at least 800,000 people dead, mainly among the Tutsi ethnic minority.

The French envoy to Rwanda Yannick Gerard wrote to his superiors to ask what to do with the genocide suspects, in a cable found in the archives of an adviser to Francois Mitterrand, the French president at the time.

In response, French foreign ministry officials told Gerard: "You can... use all indirect channels, especially your African contacts, without exposing yourself directly, to transmit to these authorities our wish that they leave the Humanitarian Safe Zone." The response was signed by Bernard Emie, a foreign ministry adviser who is now the head of France's DGSE foreign intelligence service.

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