Kigali – Rwanda said on Wednesday that France’s declassification of documents relating to the 1994 genocide will shed light on unanswered questions over the mass killings, in which Kigali accuses Paris of having an indirect role.
The French decision on Tuesday concerns documents in the Elysee presidential palace relating to Rwanda between 1990 and 1995, spanning the genocide which claimed at least 800 000 lives.
“The president had announced a year ago that France must provide proof of transparency and facilitate remembrance of this period,” a source in French President Francois Hollande’s office said.
Rwandan Minster of Justice Johnston Busingye said Wednesday that Paris should ensure that all the documents are released.
Tightly guarded domain
“The Franco-Rwanda political, diplomatic and military relationship during the 1990-1995 period has been a tightly guarded domain,” Busingye told AFP.
“Perhaps the goings on at the time will finally be opened up, and it will shed light on the many dark and grey questions still unaddressed. One only hopes that the declassification is total.”
The papers, which include documents from diplomatic and military advisors as well as minutes from ministerial and defence meetings, will be available to both researchers and victims’ associations, the French presidency said.
Ties between France and Rwanda are strained, with Rwandan President Paul Kagame accusing Paris of complicity in the genocide because of its support of the Hutu nationalist government that carried out the mass slaughter, mainly of ethnic Tutsis.
Survivors welcome declassification
Paris has repeatedly denied the accusations and insists that French forces had worked to protect civilians. Relations between both countries were completely frozen from 2006 to 2009.
The president of Ibuka, Rwanda’s genocide survivors’ association, called for documents to be made available as soon as possible.
“Let them do it and do so quickly, it is interesting, it is good,” said Jean-Pierre Dusingizemungu, saying it could shed light on France’s role and actions through the period of the genocide.
The genocide was sparked by the killing of country’s president, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down in April 1994.
Kagame last year caused a stir by repeating his accusations against France before commemorations to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide which ran from April to July 1994.
He notably said that France had not “done enough to save lives” and had not only been complicit but “an actor” in the massacre of Tutsis.
Serious errors of judgement
He also spoke of “the direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation of the genocide, and the participation of the latter in its actual execution”.
Former French prime minister Alain Juppe, who was president Francois Mitterrand’s foreign minister at the time of the genocide, termed the accusations “intolerable” and urged Hollande to “defend France’s honour.”
Stung by the repeated accusations, France cancelled plans for the justice minister to attend the 20th anniversary commemorations.
A French parliamentary enquiry set up to try to establish the truth about the French role declared that “France was in no way implicated in the genocide against the Tutsis.”
But the two rapporteurs, one of whom was Bernard Cazeneuve who is France’s interior minister, however admitted the French authorities made “serious errors of judgement”.
The United Nations was also taken to task in 1994 for only belatedly recognising that a genocide was in progress.
The announcement of the French declassification of the Rwanda papers came on the 21st anniversary of the outbreak of the genocide on 7 April 1994.