This has been a bad week for the glory of France. Not only did they have their 'trash talking' about the American Olympic swim team smashed back into their faces: they have also been accused of complicity in the Rwandan genocide by a special commission in Kigali.
To this point, the official French response has been to question the objectivity of the report and to basically distance itself from the whole sordid episode. According to a spokeperson from the French Foreign Ministry the accusations are 'inacceptable'. (Not wrong, or insane...somehow simply inappropriate. Quelle horreur!)
Is it enough to let sleeping dogs lie here? Is French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner going to roll-over on this and follow the 'fog-of-war' party line.
The basic points of the accusation are that:
- The highest echelons of the French government were active in supporting the Hutu led government and viewed the RPF, Paul Kagame's Tutsi led guerilla movement, as an Anglophone plot to remove Rwanda from the French sphere of influence;
- Militarily, the French not only materially helped the Rwanda Hutu-led army but also the dreaded interhamwe guerillas
(This from a French journalist who was on the scene:
Je dois d'abord dire que je suis le seul, je dis bien : le seul journaliste français et même européen à avoir été mis en prison puis expulsé par les autorités belges pour avoir pris la défenses de ces pauvres gens. Il était déjà évident, pour tous les gens de bonne foi, qu'un génocide se préparait dans ce pays. Et, pour le gouvernement français, il fallait, à tous prix, garder ce pays dans la françafrique. Le reste... Tout le reste, était sans importance. Plus d'un million de morts. (Basically he is saying that everyone (Belgians, French, etc.) knew a genocide was coming and did nothing about it. For his efforts at tringing the bell this journalist was expelled from the country. )
If true this is a damning blight on the French national honor far beyond other questionable events such as the sinking of Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior in 1985.
In order to clear the air the French need to set up a commission of inquiry and send representatives to Kigali to review the evidence in the Rwandan report and stop doing their tit-for-tat dance with the Kagame government over who did what to whom.
The commission should interview, under oath, all living members of the government and military who were involved in Rwandan policy.
French academics and journalists should climb into this and look at the accusations point-by-point and do their own independent analysis.
As is often the case in Africa, people are willing to settle for reconciliation and let justice slide. African governments have real reasons to let this happen, but European ones, especially ones where Bernard Kouchner is the Foreign Minister, have no excuse whatsoever.