Renowned French author and philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy has urged former ministers who served in the governments of François Mitterrand’s second term to acknowledge that France bears political and moral responsibility in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The author made the call in a hard hitting article he published on Thursday on his blog, Le bloc-notes de Bernard-Henri Lévy.
Lévy’s blog is syndicated on the web site of Le Point, a French weekly news magazine.
BHL, as Lévy is often referred to in France, said the sooner France’s politicians admit to their responsibility for failures during the Genocide, the better because facts are facts.
“What is needed above all is a return to reason, not to mention decency, by former ministers on both sides of the aisle who served in the governments of François Mitterrand’s second term and who seem far less concerned with remembering the 800,000 Tutsis who were hacked to death between April and July 1994 than with the honor of a French army that they were the first, through their irresponsible orders, to throw knowingly under the bus,” he wrote.
France pulled out of activities of the 20th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi at the last minute despite prominent global leaders convening in Kigali to show solidarity with the people of Rwanda.
Haunted by a past
While the French officials stayed away from the commemorations, citing fresh mentioning in the media by President Paul Kagame that France played a role in the Genocide, BHL said the French government’s attitude toward the Genocide helps neither France as a country, nor its army whose soldiers were misled into supporting génocidaires.
Levy urged the French politicians to tell the truth “for the deep and true honour of the French soldiers who covered themselves in glory in Mali and Libya, who performed well in Central African Republic, and who made the most of a difficult context in Sarajevo and Bosnia–but who, when it comes to Rwanda, are haunted by a past that, for them as for the Rwandans, will not go away.”
He suggested that true honour for the French soldiers will not be based on denial of their role in the Genocide but in acknowledging the bitter, painful deeds with sincerity.
In what he calls a glaring fact, the author describes how revelations made by survivors of the Genocide on the ground in Rwanda, journalists and researchers like Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman, as well as the UN mission commander in Rwanda in 1994, Roméo Dallaire, implicate France in the Genocide.
It is a fact attested to by credible witnesses, he writes, that after the downing of the plane carrying President Juvénal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994, which preceded the killings, “it was in France’s embassy in Kigali that the Hutu interim government was cobbled together.”
“That was the government that would direct the massacres, certain leaders of which (Jérôme Bicamumpaka and Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, who were, respectively, minister of foreign affairs and a founding member of the infamous Radio Mille Collines) were received in Paris two weeks later by Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and foreign minister Alain Juppé–the latter of whom, it must also be acknowledged, was the first to utter the taboo word of genocide following a meeting on May 15 of the EU Council of Ministers in Brussels,” he wrote.
The sooner the better
Levy advises that while France’s “bundle of blunders and errors” don’t constitute “participation” in the Genocide, and while “it cannot be said that the French army was implicated militarily in the killing”, that it is an obvious fact that “France bears political and moral responsibility for the sadly foreseeable chain of monstrous events that unfolded on its watch.”
“The sooner that fact is acknowledged, the sooner we stop playing with the truth, the sooner we start listening to the voices of witnesses, Rwandan and French alike, the better off we all will be,” he said.
“Why? Because of the obligation to make reparation that a crime against humanity always imposes. Because of the need of a people to grieve and remember, a people that we left to die and it is our duty to help in a small way to live again.”