Macron’s initiative to send historians to Rwanda to supposedly uncover the truth about the genocide is a farce. The report, although a whitewash of what really happened in 1994, will bring France closer to Rwanda.
France has published a controversial report into its role in the Rwandan genocide, an initiative believed to be the brainchild of President Emmanuel Macron.
The genocide in 1994, which has its anniversary on April 7, took the lives of an estimated 800,000 ethnic Tutsis, who, until that point were the minority in the country led by a Hutu government.
France’s role in the genocide and the support of the Hutu elite right up until the assassination of President Habyarimana is explosive and will probably always be a dark stain on the Republic’s colonial history. Although, unlike in Algeria, Rwanda’s close links to France and the role Paris played, are unlikely ever to be really exposed.
Macron ordered the creation of the commission in May 2019 to analyse France's role in Rwanda from 1990-1994 through archival research, but his logic behind the decision is now becoming clearer: Macron wants France to get back to being a colonial power in Rwanda.
And this 1,200 page report, already praised by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, and timed to serenade Macron ahead of a visit to Rwanda, does the job.
The genocide began after Rwanda's Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana, with whom President Mitterrand had cultivated close ties, was killed when his plane was shot down over Kigali on April 6, 1994. He was returning from a conference in Dar El Salam in Tanzania where, it is believed that he had agreed to a power sharing agreement with the Tutsis, whose military faction the RPF, until that point, was a few kilometres from the Rwanda capital.
The order to shoot down the plane has always been a great mystery although many point the finger at the hardcore element within the Hutus, who had formed an organisation called ‘Network Zero’ (also referred to as 'Zero Network').
Macron’s investigation, which was mysteriously not made up of any experts who have close links to Rwanda, but includes experts on the Holocaust, the incidents in Armenia and international criminal law - had been given access to archives including those of Mitterrand himself which were long closed off to researchers.
However, it was never expected that they are going to make much progress on uncovering the most polemic subjects at the heart of the genocide – France’s immediate role in allegedly masterminding the genocide and the specific initiatives taken out by Mitterrand’s son, Jean-Christophe Miterrand, who advised his father on African affairs.
‘Network Zero’ was created with the express purpose of keeping the Hutu government in power and the dominant French-speaking force in Rwanda – and more importantly to direct the Hutu masses towards slaughtering Tutsis with ‘pangas’ (machetes). It was a also propaganda unit which directed police, judges, businessmen, church clergies and journalists to spread lies about the Tutsis and what they were going to do once their organisation, the RPF, was reintegrated back into Rwanda.
The RPF was made up of Tutsis who were young men whose parents and grandparents had fled Rwanda into Uganda from 1959 onwards. They were English speaking who had been welcomed in the early 90s into the Ugandan army under the leadership of President Museveni, a CIA puppet who had everything to gain by helping French-held Rwanda fall into the hands of the Americans.
France’s role in supporting the incumbent Hutu elite in power was crucial to keeping Rwanda as a French satellite and Mitterrand was absolutely determined at any cost not to allow it to become an English-language CIA asset.
The Macron commission was unlikely to dig too deeply though and find that Network Zero was set up entirely by Mitterrand’s son, who was tasked with the whole Rwanda dossier, and was at the heart of the genocide itself. The relationship between the Mitterrands and the Hutu elite was so tight, that in fact the plane which was carrying the president back to Rwanda from Tanzania was a gift from Mitterrand to Habyarimana.
However, the report does point the finger firmly at Mitterrand and places most of the blame with him, which waters down nicely the self blame of the ‘Elysee’ and France taking full responsibility.
Key parts of the report, hold back from what many journalists on the ground at the time know to be the truth, namely that Network Zero was responsible not only for the downing of the president’s plane but for the immediate slaughter of Tutsis. The report stops short at blaming Mitterrand, or his son, for being the lever of power on this decision.
Yet it is well known and documented that Mitterrand’s son ran the network as his father even personally invited key members of it to Paris and personally handed them large sums of cash.
Central to that organisation was the widow of the president, who played a major role in the mass slaughter of Tutsis in the days after her husband’s assassination along with bringing into the government more extremist Hutus who were members of the underground movement.
Earlier in Paris, taking the cash was one of Mrs Habyarimana's brothers, Colonel Elie Sagatwa, who was also a member of Network Zero, which planned the genocide. According to the Guardian, witnesses said Mrs Habyarimana was present at a number of Network Zero meetings and was also a 'supporter' of extremist media organisations, such as RTLM radio and Kangura newspaper, which led a campaign urging Hutus to slaughter the “cockroaches” which was also a major factor in the genocide.
Two of Mrs Habyarimana's other brothers played important parts in the killings, one as a provincial governor and the other as the former head of Rwanda's national bank according to the Guardian.
None of this was likely to be investigated as it puts a horrible media spotlight on the French elite and would probably create a backlash against Macron at the polls.
But there is enough evidence out there that Mitterrand set up and ran Network Zero, as well as documentation revealed in a BBC documentary which shows last minute panicky shipments of military equipment shipped to Kigali in the months leading up to the downing of the president’s private jet.
The BBC's controversial documentary put a case together against Mitterrand’s son and Network Zero. It found enough evidence to confront him which only resulted in his singular response of “bullsh*t” while appearing very disturbed indeed on camera.
It is unlikely the BBC documentary, which has been removed from the BBC's website, would feature at all in the investigator’s findings. If it did, it would ask a poignant question still on the minds of many today and perhaps have led the historians not to have concluded that there was an “inability to foresee the genocide that was taking shape”.
Did Mitterrand himself give the go-ahead to down the president’s plane which was the spark to ignite the genocide itself? This question is still a mystery to most and, perhaps unsurprisingly, not tackled in the report.
Did Mitterrand’s son create and fund Network Zero as a terror organisation to spread fear in the hearts of Hutus so that they would carry out the genocide themselves? Almost certainly.
In 2018, a so-called investigation in France which fingered a cabal of Hutus close to the Rwandan president, was suddenly dropped by a judge. Will these testimonies of these assassins be part of the historians’ probe? Of course not.
The Duclert Commission report falls short of being a salient investigation and resembles more of a whitewashing of France’s real role in the genocide of nearly a million people, who paid the price of France’s vanity at losing a French speaking satellite in Africa to the US.
Incredibly, this paranoia and sour grapes is seen quite clearly in its pages even today, where the past tense context of the thinking in 1994 is replicated today by the present tense in the report itself.
“Rwanda is under threat from an Anglo-Saxon world, which the FPR, Uganda and their international allies incarnate.”
France has too much blood on its hands to face a genuine inquiry which can act as a truth and reconciliation tool similar to the process in South Africa.
The truth is simply too horrific for ordinary people in France - and certainly not a place where Macron is going to take them. This report goes as far as it can in blaming Mitterrand and his almost Heart of Darkness moment in Rwanda where he lost his mind. But it stops short of holding him or his family accountable for the actual genocide itself, attributing this to the fog of war. It does however accept that France has some responsibility for the massacres which produced the rivers of blood we all saw in the grainy newsreel footage. And that’s a start.
The author was in Northern Rwanda in1993, embedded with RPF soldiers in what was called the ‘buffer zone’, reporting for WTN in London.
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