Macron opens Rwanda genocide commission

Macron opens Rwanda genocide commission

French President Emmanuel Macron has appointed a commission to probe the French role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

More than 800,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were butchered by militias loyal to the government while the west failed to stop the slaughter.

Rwanda accuses France of having supported the ethnic Hutu militias responsible for the slaughter and helping some of the perpetrators to escape justice after their regime fell.

Macron was criticised for failing to attend a ceremony to mark the 25th anniversary of the genocide this weekend.

Instead, he will be represented by French MP Hervé Berville from Macron’s La République En Marche. Berville was orphaned during the 1994 genocide and adopted by a French family in Brittany.

Macron’s office said the commission would be “consulting all France’s archives relating to the genocide … in order to analyse the role and engagement of France during that period”.

“The goal is to deliver a report which will be published in two years’ time … and will be accessible to all,” his staff said. “It will scientifically evaluate, on the basis of archives, the role that France played in Rwanda from 1990 to 1994.”

France has always denied being complicit in the massacres in the former Belgian colony and says that UN-mandated French soldiers deployed in the final weeks of the genocide did their best under testing circumstances and saved thousands of lives.

Former president Francois Hollande declassified the presidential archives on Rwanda in 2015 but researchers said only a small proportion of documents were made public and a comprehensive account of French involvement had not emerged.

The post-1994 Rwandan government partially blamed France for the massacres because of its support for the Hutu-dominated regime.

The 1994 killings were a backlash after the death in a plane crash of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu moderate. Hutus who refused to take part in the killings were also at risk.

France had troops stationed in Rwanda with a UN mandate but they did not intervene until June, two months after the killings began.

Several suspects wanted for war crimes in Rwanda sought refuge in France.

Macron became the first French president to meet representatives of the biggest association of survivors.

The youthful head of state styles himself as the face of a new generation of French politicians unburdened by colonial sins. Last year, Macron acknowledged that France carried out systematic torture during Algeria’s war of independence.

Rwanda in 1994. Picture credit: Wikimedia

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