Last week, the National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG) published a book titled ‘Jenoside yakorewe Abatutsi mu cyahoze ari commune Cyangugu’ loosely translating to ‘The genocide against Tutsi in former commune Cyangugu.’
The book was released as a result of a research which was conducted by Donatien Nikuze, a genocide scholar under the supervision of Dr. Gasanabo Jean Damascène, Director General of the National Research and Documentation Centre on Genocide at CNLG.
It elaborates on allegations that French military forces worked closely with Interahamwe militia during the genocide, supplied them with weapons and offered them cover, under the United Nations (UN) auspices.
The book also shows that France was not in Rwanda to rescue thousands of Tutsi families who were trapped amidst ruthless and brutal massacres but that they were sent to halt FPR Inkotanyi soldiers which had outstripped the Armed Forces of Rwanda (FAR), the army of the ethnic Hutu-dominated Rwandan regime which executed the genocide.
The book shows that French soldiers who were sent in Rwanda for ‘Operation Turquoise’ a French-led military operation in Rwanda in 1994 under the mandate of the United Nations reached former Cyangugu Prefecture and divided into two units.
One unit stayed at Kamembe airport in Cyangugu while the other unit went to Nyarushishi, Bugarama, Ntendenzi and Kirambo sectors. In Nyarushishi, French soldiers patrolled through the camps and a few days later knew which tents sheltered women and girls.
The soldiers then started a rape spree, dragging women and girls from their tents to rape them every day while they were supposed to protect them.
Kambongo Constance who witnessed the atrocities committed by French soldiers in Nyarushishi said “French soldiers would come in the morning, pick women and girls in their tanks and raped them. Later on, we learned that the women and girls were not picked to clean French soldiers’ houses as they lied about but that they were violently raped once they reached French camps.”
Claudine who survived the rape spree in Nyarushishi was 14 years old at the time. She developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of rape. Other rape survivors include Mukayiranga Mado, Mukayeze Pascasie, Mukayitesi Jacqueline, Umulisa and girls from Ecole Agricole Et Veterinaire (EAV) Ntedezi.
Page 360 of the book reads “Women and girls were subjected to unimaginable atrocities where French soldiers would insert pepper in their genital parts, force them into oral and anal sex and take naked pictures of their victims. The soldiers would then offer them portions of their field ration to buy their silence.”
The book also shows facts that French soldiers raped women at Kamembe Airport and Kamarampaka stadium.
Habimana Jean Bosco, a genocide convict and former member of the Interahamwe militia worked closely with French soldiers. He said that French soldiers asked him to collect Tutsi women for raping and that he executed their orders because they had supplied him with firearms.
The first time, he brought them Beata, a 15-year old Tutsi girl from Mururu. After they raped her, they ordered the Interahamwe militia not to kill her.
The second victim Habimana brought was 14-year-old Mukasine Florence from Winteko sector, former Bugayi cell whom he found hiding after her entire family was decimated.
On page 361, the book reads “At Kamarampaka stadium, Mukasine was gang-raped to a point she was unable to walk. The soldiers then ordered that she shall not be killed as well.” Habimana said that the soldiers would reward him with food.
Beata and Mukasine were captured as they moved out of Nyarushishi camp to look for food. They were brought to French camps, raped and sent back to Nyarushishi where they fortunately survived the genocide.
Another victim was an unidentified 19-year-old girl whom Habimana brought to a French soldier. After raping her, the soldier denied Habimana a portion of his field ration as it had become the routine. He got angry and threatened he was going to kill the girl. The French soldier was indifferent to the threat and said he did not care at all. Habimana then killed the girl in front of the soldiers and left her corpse lying there.
Complicity with killers
Bisengimana Elisée who was a teacher at Groupe Scolaire de Gihundwe at the time of the genocide said that the French government was a close ally of the Rwandan regime that planned and perpetrated the mass slaughter of more than a million Tutsi.
In Rusizi, French soldiers collaborated with Interahamwe militia at roadblocks and barricades.
They verified identity cards and those who were identified Tutsi were sent to Interahamwe to be killed. The soldiers also provided firearms and grenades to the killers.
On page 355, the book reads “soldiers sent in the United Nations-sanctioned humanitarian mission in Rwanda in 1994 only offered back up to the killers and pushed further their agenda of totally wiping out the Tutsi minority in complete impunity.”
Sinzabakwira Straton explained that French soldiers also joined the killing spree. In Gasare, former Karengera commune, French soldiers killed Tutsi, packed the corpses inside bags and dumped them in the middle of the Nyungwe forest.
The victims were accused of supporting FPR Inkotanyi. The soldiers helped genocide perpetrators erase evidence of the genocide by picking corpses of Tutsi in Kamembe and dumping them in the Nyungwe forest.
The French government thought the Interahamwe militia to erase all evidence of the genocide. In Cyangugu, French soldiers saw corpses floating in Lake Kivu and alerted the killers that if anyone took a photo of it, it would cost them a lot. Habimana said, “the soldiers instructed us to incise the victims’ bellies and fill them with stones so that they could sink into the lake.” The killers used bayonets to execute the evil plan.
Kayitsinga Abdallah who lived in Kamembe during the genocide explained that not only did the French soldiers participate in the genocide, they also looted processed tea from Shagasha and Gisakura tea factories and exported it to be sold in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Ndikubwabo Jean who admitted having been a broker for French soldiers said they also looted cars and sold them in DRC. He was paid between $20 and $30 for each car they sold.
FPR Inkotanyi victory was disadvantageous to the French Government
By July 17th, 1994, FPR Inkotanyi had conquered almost all the country with the exception of the ‘zone humanitaire sure’ (ZHS), a safety zone spreading over former Gikongoro, Cyangugu and Kibuye prefectures where French soldiers had established camps.
The book explains that after realizing that FAR forces were outnumbered on all fronts, French soldiers in ‘Operation Turquoise’ urged génocidaires in Cyangugu to flee the country. French soldiers and government officials patrolled through Cyangugu calling killers to flee Rwanda as soon as they could
Bisengimana Elisée said, “they used microphones to call upon all génocidaires in Kamembe to leave the country.”
The message was informing génocidaires that the next day, French soldiers would leave the country and that they would have no protection. “Tomorrow, FPR Inkotanyi will conquer Cyangugu and will kill every Hutu on their way. We urge you all to flee to DRC before the last French soldier leaves Rwanda. You are warned!”
Upon realizing that they would be killed, génocidaires destroyed their houses and moved to Congo in search of permanent asylum.
Surwumwe Bernard, an ex-FAR soldier said that as they fled to Congo, they were shielded all the way by French soldiers.
“When we reached DRC, French soldiers helped us move our weapons across Lake Kivu to Panzi military camp. General Bizimungu and Minister Kambanda later came to see us accompanied by two French soldiers.”
In Panzi Military Camp, FAR soldiers and other génocidaires conspired to come back in Rwanda to finish the ‘job’ they had started and destabilize its security.
Despite independent reports released by the Government of Rwanda and accusing French officials of complicity in the 1994 genocide, France continuously denied playing any role.
Last year, President Macron appointed a panel of experts to investigate France’s actions in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. He also announced the creation of a judicial unit in charge of prosecuting genocide suspects.