Running low on reasons to hate France? Here's another one: Rwanda. I'm not talking about the blame poured on the U.N. and the West in general for negligence; I'm talking about France actually helping commit genocide.
France not only trained and armed the Hutu genocidaires in advance of the genocide, it armed them, gave them safe harbor, refused safe harbor to Tutsis, and sent its own troops into Rwanda to defend the Hutus during the genocide of the Tutsis.
The narrative of France's aiding and abetting genocide in Rwanda is well described in the recently published book, The Fate of Africa, by Martin Meredith. I should point out that Rwanda is not the focus of this book. In fact, it is only covered in Chapter 27, out of 35 chapters and 752 pages. The book does not even concentrate on France. But the plain facts speak loudly enough.
In 1990, the Rwandan government was led by Hutu extremists, headed by president Habyarimana. French President Francois Mitterand sent his own son, Jean—Christophe, to head France's special Africa Unit. Jean—Christophe was popularly known in Africa as Papa m'a dit, or "Daddy told me to".
In early October 1990, the opposition Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) gathered in neighboring Uganda to stage strikes into Rwanda. President Mitterand authorized French troops to help the Hutu government fight the RPF. Jean—Christophe remarked, with a wink, 'We are going to send him a few boys, old man Habyarimana. We are going to bail him out. In any case, the whole thing will be over in two or three months.'
With France's help, Habyarimana expanded his armed forces by over 300%. France contributed training, expertise, weapons and foreign contacts for more weapons. Rwanda spent an estimated $100 million on arms at that time, a huge amount for such a small country.
In 1992 a ceasefire was signed between Rwanda and the RPF, but the abuse of Tutsis continued.
Despite a 1993 human rights report accusing Habyarimana of 'massacres, torture, arbitrary detention and other abuses against Tutsis', France continued its program of support for Habyarimana.
Within 3 months in early 1994, Rwanda imported more than 500,000 machetes, enough to arm a third of the adult Hutu population.
On April 6, 1994, Habyarimana's plane was shot down, perpetrators still unknown, and the killing began. 'The first victims were carefully selected... with lists prepared well in advance.' Soldiers hunted down moderate Hutus. One of the first targets was the Hutu prime minister. Ten Belgian UN peacekeepers, sent to defend her, were 'taken prisoner, driven to a military camp, beaten up, tortured and killed.' The prime minister and her husband were also caught and killed. The slaughter of Tutsis started at the same time.
'During a mass for some 500 Tutsis, a killing squad burst into the church. 'The militia began slashing away,' a survivor recalled. 'They were hacking at the arms, legs, breasts, faces and necks.' The killing lasted for two hours. Similar massacres broke out across the country.' 'Across Rwanda, church buildings where Tutsis desperately sought sanctuary became the scene of one massacre after another. More people were killed there than anywhere else.'
On April 8, the RPF announced a return to war and prepared to advance on the capital. On April 9, French troops landed in the capital to protect, not Tutsis, but Hutu extremists, who were put on the first plane out. Upon arrival in Paris, some of the Hutu extremists received hefty sums of money and a personal audience by President Mitterand. On the other hand, the French refused to evacuate the five children of the murdered prime minister and long—standing embassy employees, most of them Tutsi.
According to Human Rights Watch, France continued arms shipments to the Rwandan army in May and June of 1994, the middle of the genocide.
In June, Mitterand sent troops into Rwanda. Military officers in Paris talked openly of 'breaking the back of the RPF'.
The Hutus greeted the arriving French troops as heroes, waving banners saying 'Vive la France' and praising Mitterand. Radio broadcasts called for 'you Hutu girls to wash yourselves and put on a good dress to welcome our French allies. The Tutsi girls are all dead, so you have your chance.'
Despite France's attempts to help the Hutu government and to defeat the RPF, it was the RPF's victory that ultimately brought an end to the genocide.
'In the space of 100 days some 800,000 people had been slaughtered — about three quarters of the Tutsi population. More people had been killed more quickly than in any other mass killing recorded in history.'
The genocide was brought to an end by the opposition RPF, the very force that France fought, directly and indirectly, both before and during the genocide. France helped the extreme Hutus, the genocidaires, both before and during the genocide, with training, arms, money and its own troops. France gave safe harbor to the Hutu genocidaires at the same time it refused to help Tutsis.
And this all happened with full knowledge and participation by French President Francois Mitterand. He sent his own son to be on site in Africa. He personally met with Hutu extremists. He ordered French troops into Rwanda during the genocide, not to protect the Tutsis from slaughter, but to protect the Hutu genocidaires.
For its part, Rwanda is now trying to do something about it. At a ceremony in 2004 to mark the 10th anniversary of the genocide, Rwandan President Paul Kagame stated
'As for the French, their role in what happened in Rwanda is self—evident... They knowingly trained and paid government soldiers and militia who were going to commit genocide and they knew they would commit genocide... There are people who hide behind diplomacy.'
Rwanda undertook its own investigation into France's responsibility for the genocide. It claims that 'Paris knowingly armed the killers and provided an escape route after their defeat' and allowed 'perpetrators of the genocide to escape when it launched an operation in south—western Rwanda in June 1994'.
We might ask what motivated France. Some hints are provided by the BBC, where we find that Jean—Christophe Mitterand (aka Papa m'a dit, and 'Mr. Africa') was arrested in 2000 for illegal arms deals and the misuse of company funds involving the sale of Russian weapons and equipment to Angola in 1993 and 1994.
'But France's "Mr Africa" was once right at the heart of the very particular relationship between the French Government and the African continent.
'Most of these countries were run by autocratic presidents who liked to deal directly with President Mitterrand, bypassing the Foreign Ministry and other official channels.
'Discreetly they could ask for favours — arms, money, help with troublesome opponents, a good word on their behalf with the IMF, a comfortable retirement if things got difficult at home.
'And the favours flowed both ways.
'Their support raised France's international profile, their contracts always went to French companies, and several African leaders are believed to have made substantial donations to French political parties.'
And what just happened this week? According to Reuters,
'Police have detained a former French ambassador to the U.N. Security Council for questioning in a corruption inquiry over the U.N.'s oil—for—food program in Iraq.'
The sophisticated French.