French Troops Accused of Widespread Rape,

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Aug 31, 2007, 4:22:49 AM8/31/07
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French Troops Accused of Widespread Rape,

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The Independent - Aug 31, 2007

French troops 'raped girls during Rwanda genocide'

By Steve Bloomfield in Kigali

French soldiers stationed in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994 have
been accused of "widespread rape" by a Rwandan commission investigating
France's role during the conflict.

The commission, which is due to publish its final report in October,
will also provide fresh evidence that French soldiers trained the
Interahamwe, the extremist Hutu militia responsible for most of the
killing, and even provided them with weapons.

The allegations threaten to plunge relations between Rwanda and its
former colonial master to a new low. It could also lead to Rwanda
seeking reparations from France at the International Court of Justice.
"That is something we are considering," said one government official.

France's support for the genocidal Rwandan regime -- both before and
during the slaughter -- has been well documented, but the new report
sheds some light on the extent of that backing.

In particular, it provides the first evidence that French soldiers sent
to Rwanda during the genocide as part of a UN-mandated force to protect
civilians carried out "widespread rape" of genocide survivors. Jean Paul
Kimonyo, one of the commissioners, said: "They were asking for Tutsis --
not women -- Tutsis."

The commission was established by the Rwandan president Paul Kagame in
April last year and is headed by a former minister of justice. France
has accused the commission of being little more than a kangaroo court
and when the seven commissioners visited France earlier this year,
French authorities made it clear that they were not welcome.

Dr Kimonyo, himself a former press aide to Mr Kagame, said he initially
shared some of those fears.

"The law which established the commission said France was guilty
already. We were very uneasy about it. But the evidence is overwhelming."

Based on testimony given at public hearings by genocide survivors and
former soldiers trained by French forces, plus evidence from piles of
official paperwork left by the fleeing Hutu regime, the commission
believes it has enough proof to convince the international community.

Dr Kimonyo said: "France was directly involved in the preparation of the
genocide. They were training the Interahamwe in a systematic manner.
They were training them to kill, to kill as fast as possible as one
witness said, using knives and machetes. What were they training them
for? It is very disturbing."

France has so far refused to acknowledge any role it played during the
genocide. Instead, last year a French anti-terrorism judge, Jean-Louis
Bruguire, claimed Mr Kagame was responsible for the act which started
it, accusing the-then head of the RPF of shooting down the plane
carrying then president Jubenal Habyarimana. Most experts believe the
plane was shot down by the same Hutu extremists who had been planning
the genocide.

Mr Habyarimana's death prompted a wave of killing by Hutu extremists,
that resulted in 800,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus
slaughtered in just three months. In response, Mr Kagame threw the
French ambassador out of Kigali, ordered the closure of the French
cultural centre and removed Radio France International from the airwaves.

As relations with France have progressively soured, those with Britain
have improved dramatically. English has become one of three official
languages, Rwanda has applied to join the Commonwealth, and last year
they established a national cricket board.

More importantly in Rwandan eyes, the UK has become the largest donor,
spending 46m last year. France has gone from being the largest
international donor before the genocide to the smallest now.

There are small signs that France's attitude towards Rwanda may be
shifting slightly. The last ambassador had been attempting to build
bridges and was widely liked by Rwandan government officials.

The role of France's new Foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, will be
crucial. M Kouchner, who has signalled his intention to visit Rwanda
before the end of the year, was there during the genocide, as the head
of a French humanitarian organisation. Although he was seen as being
close to the French president, Franois Mitterrand, M. Kouchner later
publicly admonished his government's lack of support for Mr Kagame after
the Rwandan genocide ended.

*How France intervened*

*October 1990*

Tutsi-led rebel forces, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), invade the
north of the country. President Juv(c)nal Habyarimana, a Hutu backed by
the French, calls in support. Three hundred French paratroopers secure
Rwanda's International Airport and fight off the invading forces. In a
few days 600 more French troops are sent in to "protect and evacuate
French citizens".


France continues to send military advisors and arms. The army grows from
5,000 to 28,000.

*February 1992*

Lieutenant Colonel Chollet, the commander of French forces in Rwanda,
becomes army chief of staff and advisor to the Rwandan presidency.

*3 February 1993*

The RPF launches a major attack, capturing the town of Ruhengeri and
moving towards the capital. Hundreds of French troops are sent to Rwanda
along with huge quantities of ammunition to back up the government forces.

*20 February 1993*

Threatened by the rapid French deployment, the RPF forces call a
unilateral ceasefire and withdraws.

*6 April 1994*

President Habyarimana's plane is shot down, triggering the genocide of
almost one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

*June 1994*

French troops launch "Operation Turquoise", aiming to establish a "safe
zone" in the south-west of the country. Although some killings continue
in the zone, President Franois Mitterrand later claims it has saved
"tens of thousands".

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