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France Enabled 1994 Rwanda Genocide, Report Says

NAIROBI, Kenya — France played a “significant” role in “enabling a foreseeable genocide” in Rwanda, according to a report commissioned by the Rwandan government that was released Monday and that echoed the findings of a recent appraisal by France.

The report offered a damning new perspective on the events that led to the killing of at least 800,000 people in 1994, arguing that France “did nothing to stop” the slaughter of ethnic Tutsi by a Rwandan government dominated by members of the Hutu ethnic group.

Twenty-seven years after the genocide, both France and Rwanda are making attempts to set the record straight on what happened during the bloodletting, government officials have said, both to respond to domestic demands and to improve bilateral relations.

The 600-page report, generated by a Washington law firm, concluded that the French government was “neither blind nor unconscious” in regard to the imminent genocide, yet continued in its “unwavering support” for the government of then-Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana. It accused the government of the former French president François Mitterrand of doing so in order to advance and reinforce its own influence and interests in the country.

released a report concluding that the French government bore “overwhelming responsibilities” for the genocide, as it remained allied with the “racist, corrupt and violent” Hutu-led government even as the leadership prepared to slaughter the Tutsis. But the report, commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron and written by historians, cleared the French of complicity in the genocide.

praised the French report, saying it showed how “Rwandan lives were just pawns in geopolitical games.”

“We welcome this report because it marks an important step toward a common understanding of what took place,” Mr. Kagame said. “It shows the desire even for leaders in France to move forward with a good understanding of what happened.”

The report comes as Mr. Kagame faces increasing criticism abroad over his government’s handling of critics, including the ongoing terrorism case against former hotelier Paul Rusesabagina.

The Rwandan government in 2017 commissioned the Washington law firm Levy Firestone Muse to investigate France’s role in the genocide against the Tutsi. The firm’s report draws on a range of sources including government reports, videos, documentaries, and interviews with more than 250 witnesses.

France and Rwanda have for years tussled over accounts of how the genocide transpired and the extent of French complicity. But relations have gradually started to thaw. In 2018, Mr. Macron backed Rwanda’s former foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo to lead the International Organization of La Francophonie, a coalition of French-speaking countries — a move that was widely seen as an effort to bolster relations with Kigali.

Mr. Kagame has also visited France at least three times since 2018, and French media have reported that Mr. Macron might visit Rwanda this year. Nicolas Sarkozy was the last French president to visit Rwanda in 2010.

In recent years, several cases related to the genocide have surfaced in French courts.

Last May, Félicien Kabuga, who was accused of financing the genocide, was arrested in Paris after more than two decades on the run. In July, a French appeals court ended an investigation into the plane crash that killed Mr. Habyarimana, an event that triggered the 1994 genocide and for which Mr. Kagame’s allies were blamed. And a Rwandan priest was arrested in France last week for his alleged role in aiding those who killed people in his church during the genocide.

an interview with the French newspaper Le Monde on Monday, Rwanda’s foreign affairs minister, Vincent Biruta, said the new report would “contribute to the reconciliation between France and Rwanda.”

Mr. Biruta added “If apologies were to be formulated one day, it would be a step in the right direction to restore trust.”

Aurelien Breeden contributed reporting from Paris.

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France Has ‘Overwhelming’ Responsibility for Rwanda Genocide, Report Says

PARIS — Blinded by its fears of losing influence in Africa and by a colonial view of the continent’s people, France remained close to the “racist, corrupt and violent regime’’ responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, and bears “serious and overwhelming” responsibilities, according to a report released Friday.

But the report — commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron in 2019 and put together by 15 historians with unprecedented access to French government archives — cleared France of complicity in the genocide that led to the deaths of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and contributed to decades of conflicts and instability in Central Africa.

“Is France an accomplice to the genocide of the Tutsi? If by this we mean a willingness to join a genocidal operation, nothing in the archives that were examined demonstrates this,’’ said the report, which was presented to Mr. Macron on Friday afternoon.

But the commission said that France had long been involved with Rwanda’s Hutu-led government even as that government prepared the genocide of the Tutsis, regarding the country’s leadership as a crucial ally in a French sphere of influence in the region.

Paul Kagame, the Tutsi leader who has controlled Rwanda for nearly a quarter century.

Mr. Macron, who has spoken of his desire to reset France’s relations with a continent where it was a colonial power, is believed to have commissioned the report to try to improve relations with Rwanda.

Though the 992-page report presents fresh information from the French government archives, it is unlikely to resolve the debate over France’s role during the genocide, said Filip Reyntjens, a Belgian expert on the genocide.

“This will not be good enough for one side, and it won’t be good enough for the other side,’’ Mr. Reyntjens said. “So my guess is that this will not settle the issue.’’

According to the report, François Mitterrand, the French president at the time, maintained a “strong, personal and direct relationship’’ with Juvenal Habyarimana, the longtime Hutu president of Rwanda, despite his “racist, corrupt and violent regime.’’

Mr. Mitterrand and members of his inner circle believed that Mr. Habyarimana and the Hutus were key allies in a French-speaking bloc that also included Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, known then as Zaire.

The French saw Mr. Kagame and other Tutsi leaders — who had spent years in exile in neighboring Anglophone Uganda — as allies in an American push into the region.

“The principal interest of this country for France is that it be francophone,’’ a high-ranking military official wrote in 1990, according to the report, which concluded: “France’s interpretation of the Rwandan situation can be viewed through the prism of defending la Francophonie.’’

French leaders at the time viewed the Hutus and Tutsis through a colonial lens, ascribing to each group stereotypical physical traits and behavior, compounding their misinterpretation of the events that led to the genocide, according to the report.

In one of the report’s most damning conclusions, its authors wrote, “The failure of France in Rwanda, the causes of which are not all its own, can be likened in this respect to a final imperial defeat, all the more significant because it was neither expressed nor acknowledged.’’

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