By: Tom Ndahiro
Prior knowledge of a crime is usually the preserve of the perpetrators, their collaborators and co-conspirators. Who knew what and when about the 1994 Rwandan genocide against Tutsi are questions many would have swept under the carpet.
On 19th December 1990, the ambassadors of Germany, France, Belgium and the delegate of the then EEC (European Economic Commission) meet in Kigali to discuss the ongoing war. The diplomats observe ‘rapid deterioration of relations’ between Hutus and Tutsis, and ‘imminent risk of escalation with fatal consequences for Rwanda and the whole region.’
One of the four, the French Ambassador to Rwanda, Georges Martres, has more authoritative information about what is about to take place. In a series of cables to his superiors in Paris, he not only shows an insider’s foreknowledge of what is about to take place, he makes clear where his sympathies lie.
Before his meeting with the other diplomats, on 13th October 1990 for instance, he sends a report to his bosses in Paris. The report covers the first eleven days of October. In it he informs them that “The Hutu peasantry, organized by the MRND (Movement…) has intensified the search for suspected Tutsis in the foothills; massacres are reported in the region of Kibilira…”
Martres notes the weakness of the Rwandan military who “cannot exploit the loyalty of the peasantry, which participates more and more in the military action, and more deeply, through auto-defence groups armed with bows and arrows, and machetes.”
“Auto-defence” or “Civil-defence” groups is a French concept conceived during the Algerian war, later to be adapted for Rwanda, using Interahamwe militia and arming of peasants with machetes.
We know from several eyewitness, reports and court judgements that the Rwandan army, supported by the French military begun to train the Interahamwe militia as early as 1991. In the next two years, the “auto-defence” proposed by Ambassador Martres had attained its chilling efficiency.
In an earlier cable, 15th October 1990, there is virtually no difference between Ambassador Martres’s language and the extremist newspaper ‘Kangura’, or awaken. Just as Kangura, was whipping up peasants into a murderous frenzy by claiming that the RPF was intent on restoring the monarchy and “Tutsi hegemony”, Martres informs Paris of “Hutu mobilization against the return of the former monarchy.”
The cable goes on to conclude that the Tutsi were relying on the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) victory, even a partial one, as the only thing which “would allow them to escape genocide”.
On 24th October 1990, the Ambassador advises Paris that it’s wrong to accept a ceasefire because it would be “to the profit of the Tutsi invaders eager to retake the power they lost in 1959.”
He goes on to state “these invaders, disregarding Rwandan reality, will probably re-establish the Honni (?) regime of the first Tutsi kingdom, once installed in the northeast. This reestablishment, explicit or disguised, would result (in all likelihood) in the physical elimination of Tutsis in the interior of the country.”
In his appreciation of France’s support, Theodore Sindikubwabo, who headed the genocidal government from 8th April to 4th July 1994, sent a gushing letter to French President Francois Mitterrand (22nd May 1994), thanking him for his “moral, material and diplomatic support.”
More appreciative words were in Kangura magazine Issue No 6 of December 1990, the same issue in which the “Ten Hutu Commandments” were published. The entire back page was devoted to a photograph of Francois Mitterrand, with the caption “A true friend of Rwanda”—“It is in hard times that you know your real friends.”
Judging from his ambassador’s cables alone, the “true friend” will no doubt have been well aware of preparations for genocide. In the same issue thanking France for its friendship, Kangura announced that the war with the RPF “would leave no survivors.”
There is barely a cigarette paper’s width between the French and their genocide planning protégés. Here is Leon Mugesera (was deported by Canada in 2012 for his genocidal speech in 1992) in early 1991 writing: “the invaders” planned “to restore the dictatorship of the extremist Tutsi minority…”
And here’s Francois Mitterrand on 23rd January 1991, voicing his concerns to his close aides and top military officers, that, France was “at the edge of the English-speaking front,” because “the Ugandan Tutsis are moving to conquer Rwanda.”
He goes on to say that his government “must tell President Museveni [of Uganda], it’s not normal that the Tutsi minority wants to impose its rule over Hutu majority.” For more about the alleged Tutsi Domination, read: Genocide and Myth of the Hima-Tutsi-Empire in the Great Lakes Region of Africa
It’s sometimes difficult to know whether it’s the French repeating the extremists’ language or the extremists repeating France’s language.
Professor Gregory Stanton of ‘Genocide Watch’ calls “polarisation” the fifth stage of genocide following classification, symbolisation, dehumanisation and preparation. The planners of the Rwandan genocide and their collaborators mirror his analysis exactly. They constantly assert the existence of irreconcilable difference between Bahutu and Batutsi. Any acknowledgement of unity is regarded as traitorous to the cause.
In a wire on 7th October 1990, Ambassador Martres talks of the RPF’s struggle as resting on “a political project of national unity of Hutus and Tutsis.” This he believes would be bad for Rwanda, because, “that would undoubtedly turn into domination of Tutsis.”
If in the words of Martres the RPF’s struggle was a “project” to unify Rwandans, he, the government he served shared, the planners of genocide, shared a project for the exterminations of an entire people.