The French government bears significant responsibility for enabling the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, according to a Monday report from the Rwandan government.
The report was commissioned by the Rwandan government in 2017 and compiled by Robert Muse of the Washington, DC, law firm of Levy Firestone Muse. While the report acknowledges French humanitarian intervention after the genocide began, it argues the French government “helped build and fortify” Rwandan institutions for years in a bid for East African influence that later became instruments of the genocide.
The Muse report is expansive and totals more than 600 pages. Hundreds of witnesses were interviewed, and more than 100,000 documents were reviewed. The Rwandan government allowed full access to its archives, while the Muse report states that the French government produced no documents despite three requests made during the course of the investigation.
The Muse report discusses France’s political interests in maintaining influence with the government in Rwanda prior to 1994, and its complacency towards government massacres of Tutsi civilians in order to preserve its good relationship with the Rwandan President Habyarimana against Paul Kagame’s opposing Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). The report further details the extensive intervention and nearly $3 million in military assistance that then-French president François Mitterand provided to then-president Juvénal Habyarimana from 1990-1994, even after it became clear that peace talks were failing and ethnic violence was becoming increasingly likely.
Finally, the Muse report describes the manner in which the French government failed to exert meaningful pressure on the Rwandan military after the genocide began and continued to view the RPF as the main security threat, rather than government actors committing atrocities against civilians. According to the report, by supporting the Rwandan government to ensure its influence in East Africa, “the effect of the French presence in Rwanda and its conscious indifference to Tutsi suffering was to create a sense of impunity amongst the perpetrators that would grow and find its fullness in the Genocide.”
The report closely mirrors the final report prepared by the French government in its recent Duclert Commission, which had the authority to review all French archives related to Rwanda. The nearly 1,000-page Duclert report found that France bore responsibility due to inaction, but argued France was not complicit with the regime that perpetrated the genocide.
The Rwandan genocide was among the most serious violations of international humanitarian law in history, with more than one million killed during a hundred days of violence in 1994.