French Soldiers Accused of Participating in Rwandan Genocide

November 02, 2016 at 12:00 pm | News

Fredrick Ngugi

Fredrick Ngugi | Contributor

November 02, 2016 at 12:00 pm | News

A French soldier monitors a Hutu army recruitment exercise during the Rwandan genocide. Photo Credit: i24News

The Rwandan government has accused 19 French senior military officers of taking part in the planning and execution of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, according to the Globe and Mail. In a statement released Tuesday, Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide said the French soldiers were directly and actively involved.

“French actors were involved in the genocide as perpetrators or accomplices and do not want their deeds to be known despite the obvious proofs at disposal. The role of [19] military officers is undoubtable,” the statement reads.

Among the accused soldiers is Lieutenant-Colonel Michel Robardey who the commission says established a computerized system for filing and keeping lists of people to be eliminated.

The hit lists primarily targeted members of the Tutsi ethnic group and the most vocal opponents of the then-Hutu-led government.

The commission further alleges that these lists were used by soldiers from the presidential security unit to track down and massacre specific individuals during the conflict.

Robardey has also been accused of participating in a series of violent interrogations and working alongside Rwandan security agents to torture thousands of people, many of them Tutsis.

“French gendarmes (a special military unit), led by Michel Robardey during criminal investigations, concealed any trace or any evidence that could demonstrate or prove the involvement of the Rwandan regime in the terrorist acts that were taking place in Rwanda, including grenade attacks and illegitimate killings that were attributed to the Rwandan Patriotic Front,” the statement reads.

Establishment of Local Militia

Another senior French military officer, Colonel Gilbert Canovas, reportedly spearheaded the establishment of a local militia group referred to as the “Interahamwe” whose sole purpose was to kill civilians on a purely ethnic and political basis, the commission says.

Canovas is accused of working closely with the then-chief of staff of the Rwandan military to erect roadblocks in order to entrap targeted individuals.

Colonel Jacques Rosier, alongside other senior French military officers, was in charge of training the Interahamwe in various military barracks across the country.

“The analysis of these facts demonstrates that senior French officers and politicians committed serious crimes in Rwanda. The refusal to end the judicial investigation and to pronounce a dismissal of warrants against Rwandan leaders who ended the genocide is a concealment of these responsibilities,” the commission concludes.

French Forces in Rwanda

French forces had been stationed in Rwanda years before the genocide for diplomatic support, which included military intervention to save the Hutu-dominated government from the Tutsi-led rebel force.

Some French military officers were even attached to key units in the Rwandan army as advisers and technical assistants.

During the genocide, French troops in conjunction with the Belgian army launched Operation Amaryllis to evacuate expatriates from Rwanda.

However, the operation was later viewed as a disgrace following reports that the troops forced members of the Tutsi community off the evacuation trucks, leaving them as good as dead.

The genocide, which lasted only three months, left more than 800,000 people dead.

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