Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The blood-stained hand of Mitterand

Documents in today's Le Monde for the first time confirms long-held suspicions against France's president François Mitterrand supported the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide despite clear warnings that mass killings of the Tutsi population were being orchestrated , according to The Independent .

Previously secret diplomatic telegrams and government memos also suggest the late French president was obsessed with the danger of "Anglo-Saxon" influence gripping Rwanda. In three months from April 1994, at least a million Rwandans - mainly Tutsis - were systematically slaughtered in killings engineered by the Hutu regime to exterminate its ethnic rivals and repel the Uganda-trained Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The documents, obtained by lawyers for six Tutsi survivors who are bringing a case against France for "complicity with genocide'' at the Paris Army Tribunal, suggest the late President Mitterrand's support for the Hutus was informed by an obsession with maintaining a French foothold in the region. One of the lawyers, Antoine Compte, said France was aware of the potential danger of its support for the pre-genocide Rwandan government.
"Massacres on an ethnic basis were going on and we have evidence that France knew this from at least January 1993. The French military executed the orders of French politicians. The motivation was an obsession with the idea of an Anglo-Saxon plot to oust France from the region."

Among the evidence to suggest France was informed of the mounting genocide is a diplomatic telegram from October 1990 in which the French defence attaché in the Rwandan capital Kigali alerts Paris of the "growing number of arbitrary arrests of Tutsis or people close to them". The cable adds: "It is to be feared that [it could] degenerate into an ethnic war.''

Another diplomatic memo, quotes a Rwandan informant as saying that thepresident of the country, Juvenal Habyarimana, had suggested "proceeding with a systematic genocide using, if necessary, the army''.

Even though Rwanda was Belgian for most of the colonial era, France took a strong interest in the country after independence, seeing it as a bulwark against the powerful influences of English-speaking Uganda and Kenya. In the 1980s, French involvement in Rwanda was limited to two dozen military advisers. But when the Uganda-based RPF began launching attacks against President Habyarimana's regime in 1990, France sent arms and troops. Critics claim French troops stood by and watched as Rwandan Hutu soldiers massacred Tutsi civilians.

See Rwanda Genocide and also La Francafrique

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