French Government Exposed in Rwanda's Genocide

In 1994, a fierce campaign of killing swept across Rwanda in central Africa, where many hundreds of thousands of people were killed, mainly of the Tutsi people. These events have been portrayed internationally as the eruption of ancient and incomprehensible hatreds. But in fact, an examination of the history of Rwanda shows that the hostilities of the herding Tutsi people and the agricultural Hutu people was greatly inflamed by the discriminatory policies of the colonial French governments in the early 20th centry. And more, the explosion of fighting in Rwanda (just like the later civil war in the Congo) are closely connected with the rivalry of Anglo-American and French imperialism over the control of Central Africa. The following article digs into recent revelations about the direct involvement of the French government in the genocide. It focuses on a 500 page report compiled by a team of investigators from the Rwandan Justice Ministry, and released in August 2008. The scathing 3-volume report was rleased by Rwandan Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karungarama to a conference room packed with hundreds of people. The findings of the report, which implicated French troops and 33 leading French politicians were quickly denounced by French officials.

We have received the following article which was originally published in Payam Fedaee #115. We have made changes to the English translation for clarity. (The original article is available in Farsi. Thanks to Green/Red for suggesting it.)

The French Government role in Rwanda's 1994 Genocide

By Maryam


Newly evidence documents the role of the French regime in the 1994 Rwanda genocide -- and has, once again, put the spotlight on this tragic event and the role of foreign imperialists in it.

In early August 2008, the Rwandan government released a report based on eyewitness accounts that the direct cooperation between the French state and the government of Rwandan Hutus that was in power during the 1994 genocide. This report is consistent with the results of investigations performed by various other organizations, including human rights groups.

According to the Rwandan government, 33 politicians and French army officers are implicated in the infamous genocide in Rwanda, either by giving orders or by their direct actions. The late president Francois Mitterrand, his son Jean Christophe, Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, Alain Juppe and his foreign minister at the time were among the indicated responsible parties.

The background for these events (which annihilated a generation) was the country’s severe economic crisis caused by actions of the International Money Fund and the World’s Bank. For example, in the name of economic reform, the value of the Rwandan currency was sharply devalued. This, in turn, caused changes in the world trade market that triggered a severe drop in Rwanda's export of key crops like coffee.

On April 4,1994, the Tutsis forces of the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), operating with direct US support, shot a missile at a plane, causing the death of the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana. In the wake of this, the Rwandan regime, urged on by Hutu extremists, unleaded a campaign of vendetta.

The Interahamwe paramilitary force was mobilized to slaughter innocent Tutsi tribespeople and Hutus caught protecting Tutsis. Meanwhile, the French regime sent 2,550 air and ground forces to support the Rwandan state against the RPF. The Rwandan report cites numerous instances of the French forces involved in the killing or giving orders to those who did the killing.

Tutsis and the Hutus, who allegedly were suspected of hiding Tutsis, were executed and their wives raped. From the time of Rwandan occupation, raping women prisoners has been done routinely and systemically by the French soldiers.

Based on direct testimony, some of the atrocious crimes that occurred during the Rwandan genocide had French help. French forces made their bases in the Niaroshishi area. Those foreign bases were protected by Rwandan military forces and the local pro-government paramilitaries.

In one incident three unarmed youth were chased out of a local tea farm and ran toward a French camp. The police and paramilitaries followed the three youth into camp and arrested them with the help of French soldiers and they were never heard from again.

A former member of the Hutu pro-government paramilitaries testifies:

"We rounded up the Tutsis who had exited their camps to gather some wood (including Charles, the teenager who was son of Sambaba,) and killed them. We then buried them in mass graves near guard postings. The French companies came over to check out what we were doing and praised us, gave us meals to express their appreciation and sometimes went out with us during nightly patrolling."


This genocide went on until over 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates were slaughtered. Finally. Returning Tutsi forces caused over two million of the Hutu population to flee for their lives into adjacent countries.

After the publication of this Rwandan report, the French state has deceitfully denied its role and tries to ignore the report. Those French politicians named in it have counter-charged that the report authors falsified evidence. For example, Harry Maurine, (who was French Minister of Defence during the1994 genocide) declared that this report is unacceptable and that the soldiers of France have done nothing to be ashamed of.

Even after gathering the evidence and producing this report, the Rwandan state has been complacent in holding the French army accountable for their actions. Instead of making the main perpetrators liable for those crimes, the Rwandan state has busied itself arresting Tutsi villagers. Instead of highlighting the roles of imperialists in the mass killing, the country instead arrested over 50,000 people of the Tutsi tribe.

But, due to prison overcrowding, the state had to release about 40 thousand from their jails. The first group to be freed included the sick and the elderly in 2003. Though the government said that their freedom was temporary and conditional and that their final fate would be announced in their local courthouses (called GAKAKA.) Since March 2005, about 12,000 local courthouses were established in villages all over Rwanda to try the released. Most of them were declared innocent.

Historical discords among Tutsi and Hutu Tribes

Before imperialism’s encroachment, the Tutsi and Hutu were living alongside each other in villages and houses of Rwanda country. Tutsi pastoralists and Hutu agriculturalists were organized into small Bantu-speaking states. At the end of World War 1 the Belgium colonizers secured their domination over Rwanda's people by dividing the two tribes from each other through the use of the eugenics movement in Europe and the United States. They declared the Hutus and Tutsis were two different "races" and issued them a racial identification card which defined each person legally as either Hutu or Tutsi.

By the end of the 1950s, growing political instability ensued rebellions that caused the deaths of between 20,000 and 100,000 Tutsis. By 1959, the royal regime of Tutsi tribe was overthrown and many of this tribe’s people escaped to neighboring states or were expelled to Uganda and the first Tutsi Refugee camps were established.

In 1962 Belgium let go of Rwanda, and that country supposedly became independent. But the civil wars between various imperialist-dependent groups and tribes continued for many years. These wars naturally caused citizens to flee and take refuge in neighboring countries. Uganda applied some of the most inhumane laws and regulations on those refugees. Refugees in Ugandan camps were confined in conditions with less than the basic means of survival. The status of “refugee” was bequeathed on the children that were born in Ugandan refugee camps and they were not recognized as any country’s citizens. Eventually the number of refugees in Ugandan camps had risen so much that the state was forced to let children out of the camps. And in some cases they were able to use opportunities under the United Nations refugee organization to leave Uganda and settle in other countries.

During the political crisis of the late 1960s, the Ugandan administration of Milton Obote passed a bill called the Control of Alien Refugees Act, which declared Rwandese to be a special class subject to arbitrary detention. In 1969 Obote deported all foreigners (this included the descendants of Hutus who had come as migrant laborers in the mid-1920s, and the more recent Tutsi refugees) from Uganda.

People in this conversation

  • Guest - Green Red

    Thanks for posting Kasama,
    For years i was simply stressed for not konwing what caused killing of Rwandan genocide. Especially, when on smaller scale it happens say in Balkans suddenly the UN act holier than the ... and do whatever they always do. And among many people everyday among foreigner from various countries, unfortunately not only say Iranians but also Central and South American people simply giving it stupid racist color saying what did you expect. As if their own nations and the whole world hasn't been played uppon as chess pawns by the colonical, imperialist powers.
    Still what leaves me perplexed is taking it so many years to run into this matter in say the source of this article, to even talk about the matter. I don't hide the fact that i read at least 4 to ten different English self proclaimed socialist, etc. papers, sometimes randomly by choice and some routinely, and still never see such terrible genocides exposed and, other than US imperialists' nature exposed to clear illusion about other imperialist/capitalist centers of the world. Sure, it is good to get into the inside the US police and many other levels racist actions. But aren't we all one way or another - according to many evolution theories - decsendents of African people and right now are laying upon buildings and roads made by their people taken to enslavement, and, their every mineral and wealth being sucked out constantly?
    And their great leaders - however some want to label them to be as of not being perfect Marxist revolutionaries by people who weren't in their shoes liike Patrice Lumumba and Kwame N'kruma whose contributions are not looked deep enough into since supposedly their line was less close to say other foreign diplomats of China as appose to Mao?
    I know i may be presenting a broad range of matters that, eventually, would be important to explore but, i am sick and tired of trying to explain to many folks from different walks of life that they are extremely stupid to only think of African people as tribes they'd seen pictures as if they never live in the cities at all.

  • I wrote a detailed piece during this Rwandan genocide that exposed the French, Belgian and Anglo-American role in these events. The imperialist hand was hidden in the media -- but their role was knowable and (at least in the Revolutionary Worker) was made known.

    For those with the archives: My article in the Revolutionary Worker #753 5/1/94 , and was entitled "The Colonial Hand Behind the Killing in Rwanda." If anyone wants to scan it and send it in, we would post it here on Kasama.

  • Guest - Green Red

    A correction:

    And their great leaders - however some want to label them to be as of not being perfect Marxist revolutionaries by people who weren’t in their shoes liike Patrice Lumumba and Kwame N’kruma whose contributions are not looked deep enough into since supposedly their line was less close to say other foreign diplomats of China as appose to Mao?

    should read

    supposedly their line was closer tro others foreign politics as appose to Mao.

    Comrade A R or ILPS strongly believes that neo colonial concept and matters (that was discussed by N'kruma in Neo Colonialism - the highest stage of imperialism -) was not alligned Chair Mao's line on foreign policies.

    Re RW article, please if anybody had access, scan and provide at some point, perhaps sometimes after May 1st - since it is good it ever existed. Then perhaps more informed Kas could explain exactly and how directly killing near a million people materially resolves economic crisis in a poverty stricken nation.

  • Green Red writes:

    <blockquote>"Then perhaps more informed Kas could explain exactly how killing near a million people materially resolves economic crisis in a poverty stricken nation.</blockquote>

    I can't imagine that the genocide resolved any economic crisis -- so don't look for anyone to explain it.

    The article we have posted above is a bit mechanical -- it implies that the crisis arose from "economic crisis" (an IMF impoverishing of Rwanda), and then the French troops participated (for undescribed reasons) in the genocide.

    The analysis I wrote was somewhat different: In the wake of the fall of the wall (and the collapse of the Soviet bloc), there remained inter-imperialist conflicts within Africa, and some of them were exacerbated.

    In particular a rivalry has emerged between forces alligned with France and Belgium (on the one hand) and the forces alligned with the U.S. and Britain (on the other). Historically Uganda has been a british colony and Rwanda and the nearby Congo (Zaire) were Belgian colonies.

    So the development of Tutsi exiled military forces (armed and gathering in Uganda) that were threatening the Hutu-based government in Rwanda can't be separated from the Anglo-American efforts to increase their political influence (and exploitation) in countries like Rwanda and the Congo. The existance of imperialist forces arming and training proxy forces meant that the conflicts between Hutu and Tutsi took the form of threats of cross border invasions.

    In other words, this genocide is rooted in imperialism in two ways:

    1) the hostility between Tutsi and Hutu is not some "irrational ancient hatred" -- it is an ethnic conflict consciously developed and encouraged as a divide-and-conquer strategy by the European colonizers in central Africa. They built a stratum of administrators out of the pastoral Tutsis and used them to oppress the majority Hutus.... and the results of those ugly policies festered after the decolonialization process.

    2) It is possible to see the Rwandan genocide as part of the explosion of "ethnic violence" that erupted after the fall of the Soviet Union -- as the framework of U.S./Soviet rivalry broke down, and all kinds of new alignments and proxy conflicts heated up. (Yugoslavia's descent into ethnic cleansing is a related experience all tied to capitalism in Tito era, and the German and American intrigues of the Bush Senior era.)

    Also, we are pointing out the fact that imperialism past and present played an important role in the genesis and eruption of a horrific genocide in Rwanda. I don't mean to imply that there were not other factors, and i don't mean to imply that the domestic politics of Rwanda (the development of Hutu chauvinist parties etc.) doesn't have a "relative autonomy" (and their own responsibility for these crimes).

    Western civilization portrays colonized people as "savages" who (once independent) are gripped by ancient murderous hatreds. That is why it is important for us to expose the particular role of imperialism for the particular reason that this is covered up by the media. It is not just a matter of French troops participating in atrocities (though this is important evidence) -- but it is the functioning of the <em>system</em> of colonialism and imperialism.

    The article above targets neo-liberalism at the culprit (i.e. IMF austerity etc. that supposedly drove people to desperation). It is a rather different analysis from the one I am laying out here.

  • Guest - Green Red

    Thanks a lot for explanation Ka Mike E.

    I didn't really think it would solve a thing but, rather, i wondered what was there gained and, ultimately which imperialist won what.

    And especially, while matters like Balkan are stolen by media like the most imperative factors of existence, these wicked atrocities are through divide and conquer played upon unfortunate oppressed peoples of Africa whose mines and resources are what imperialists care for the most.

    On 3 i've written:
    Comrade A R or ILPS strongly believes ...

    it should read comrade A R of ILPS believes...

    forgive my misspellings that are due to eye seeing too much light.

  • Guest - Proxy Site

    Great read, I look forward to more

  • Guest - Becca

    I'm a student working on a multimedia project on genocide throughout history. I've been emailing around and cannot seem to find the original owner of the photograph featured in this article. If you are the original or owner, or know who holds the rights to this photo, it would be fantastic to be able to use it as a source.

    Please reply via email to:

    Best regards!

  • Guest - Tats

    Hi, I was wondering if i could get a copy of that article The Colonial Hand Behind the Killing in Rwanda. Im researching the reasons behind the genocide and its hard to find any thruthful info with so many theories being thrown around the place.
    Mike E, you've opened up a brand new way in which i can tackle my project, great insight!

  • Guest - gabnal

    can any one tell me the role of india or policy of india or voting history, stance of india on the rwandan genocide 1994 ?
    and can any one give me the resolution nos of rwandan genocide 1994?
    as quickly as possible

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