We may soon learn France’s real role in the Rwanda genocide; In a milestone court case in Paris, unprecedented testimony could reveal the Elysée’s links to the 1994 génocidaires

‘The policy was devised in secret … within the confines of the Africa Unit. At its heart was François Mitterrand.’ Photograph: Brian Harris/The Independent/REX

The trial this week of a Rwandan genocide suspect in a Paris courtroom is a well-earned victory for the French human rights groups who lobbied so hard and so long for justice. The milestone trial signals the end of France as a safe haven for génocidaries. But more than this, the trial is likely to see intense public scrutiny of one of the great scandals of the past century – the role of France in the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi of Rwanda, which for 20 years journalists and activists have tried so hard to expose.

Pascal Simbikangwa, the defendant in Paris, is said to have been a member of an inner circle of power in Rwanda that devised genocide as a planned political campaign. Developed by Hutu ideologues, it was intended to prevent a power-sharing system of government that was to include the minority Tutsi. The genocide claimed up to a million lives.

A captain in the Rwandan gendarmerie until 1986, when he was paralysed in a car accident, Simbikangwa – a fanatic who hoped to create what was known as “a pure Hutu state” – worked for the security services in the capital Kigali. He was eventually found hiding out in the French department of Mayotte, an island group in the Indian Ocean, with 3,000 forged identity papers – more than enough for the hundreds of Rwandan fugitives still at large. He denies all the charges, and his lawyer says he is a scapegoat.

Until now there has been a complete absence of will in Paris to bring to justice any of the estimated 27 Rwandan genocide fugitives who live on French soil. The country was a staunch ally of the Rwandan government which planned and perpetrated the genocide. The trial may well show the French electorate just how appalling its secret policy towards the central African state really was.

The policy was devised in secret, with no accountability from press or parliament and largely determined within the confines of a special office in the president’s Elysée Palace known as the Africa Unit. It operated through a network of military officers, politicians, diplomats, businessmen and senior intelligence operatives. At its heart was President François Mitterrand, who had operated through senior army officers: General Christian Quesnot, Admiral Jacques Lanxade and General Jean-Pierre Huchon.

The prosecution testimony in the trial will be unprecedented in the detail it will provide about the genocide. The evidence combines the results of investigations into the Simbikangwa case at the international criminal tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and details from investigations carried by Rwandan authorities. Never before, not even in the courtrooms of the ICTR, has such an impressive array of witnesses assembled. It is hoped that their combined testimony will put paid to a campaign of denial waged by defence lawyers at the ICTR who claimed the killing in Rwanda was not the result of a conspiracy but was somehow “spontaneous”.

Simbikangwa’s prosecutors are concentrating on his role during the killing, when he allegedly encouraged the murder of Tutsi by Interahamwe militia on roadblocks and provided them with weapons. The roadblocks and the Interahamwe were an integral part of the planned killing mechanism and ensured the speed and scale of the slaughter.

But the impact of the Simbikangwa trial will be felt far beyond the courtroom. It is hoped that for the French public the nature of the genocide will be laid bare, and that at long last a debate about France and Rwanda will begin. Twenty years too late, a true reckoning may at last be possible.

Linda Melvern
The Guardian, Wednesday 5 February 2014 19.11 GMT

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Sarkozy admits France’s role in Rwandan genocide (2010)

President acknowledges that ‘errors’ were made but stops short of formal apology

President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted yesterday that French “errors” had contributed to the Rwandan genocide which killed an estimated 800,000 people in 1994.

On the first visit by a French leader to Rwanda for 25 years, Mr Sarkozy did not formally apologise. Nor did he accept allegations that France had played an active role in training and arming the Hutu militias and troops who led massacres of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

But he suggested that the entire international community – and France in particular – should accept that its response had been culpably weak. “What happened here is a defeat for humanity,” Mr Sarkozy said. “What happened here left an indelible stain. What happened here obliges the international community – including France – to reflect on the errors which prevented us from foreseeing, or stopping, this appalling crime.”

Previously France has always insisted that it could not have foreseen the genocide and that the intervention of its troops helped to save many Hutu and Tutsi lives. Mr Sarkozy’s visit to Kigali, and joint press conference with the Rwandan President Paul Kagame, were the most dramatic symbols to date of efforts to repair relations. Diplomatic ties were restored in November, three years after they were severed amid mutual recriminations and allegations.

In 2006, a French investigating judge issued international arrest warrants for eight Tutsi officials close to President Kagame, suggesting that they had deliberately provoked the genocide of their own people by assassinating a moderate Hutu president in May 1994. The accusations brought renewed allegations from Mr Kagame’s Tutsi-dominated government that France had armed and trained Hutu militias and soldiers knowing that genocidal attacks were likely or possible.

In 1998, a French parliamentary investigation rejected these accusations but admitted that the late President François Mitterrand and the then centre-right government in France had been blinded by supposed French interests in the region into siding with radical, and eventually murderous, Hutu groups.

The eight arrest warrants against Kagame aides are still active but the Rwandan government now accepts that they were drawn up by an independent investigating magistrate and not the French government.

Before his press conference with President Kagame, Mr Sarkozy was taken on a tour of Kigali’s genocide museum. On two occasions, the official guide made references to alleged French complicity in the massacres, including a photograph of a French military vehicle driving past armed Hutu civilians. President Sarkozy ignored the remarks.

He later placed a wreath on a memorial to the dead and said that “in the name of the people of France” he “bowed” to “victims of the genocide of the Tutsis”. “Errors of appreciation, political errors, were committed here which had consequences which were absolutely tragic,” Mr Sarkozy said. Although he spoke of the cumulative guilt of the international community, the implication was clear. France was – for the first time – admitting that its own actions had contributed to the calamity.

On his way to Rwanda, Mr Sarkozy visited Gabon and made an unscheduled stop in Mali to greet a French aid worker, Pierre Camatte, released this week after almost three months as the hostage of an extreme Islamist group.

By John Lichfield in Paris
Friday, 26 February 2010

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Rwandan genocide; A devastating report on France’s role (2008)

Is the defendant’s dock at the International Criminal Court reserved for leaders of small and poor countries that defy the West? Not if Rwanda has its way. It wants to charge some of France’s most celebrated leaders of the 1990s as collaborators in genocide.

Last week the government of Rwanda issued a damning 500-page report documenting France’s participation in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. This marks a remarkable turnaround in the deeply politicized world of human rights reporting. Usually, such reporting takes the form of governments or human rights groups based in the West condemning poor countries for having political or social systems that do not meet Western standards.

Now a wretched African country has turned the table.

All who study the Rwandan genocide, as I did while researching a book about that ill-fated country, come away stunned by what they learn about French support of mass murder. France was so eager to defend a client regime against English-speaking rebels that, as the new report asserts, it gave that regime “political, military, diplomatic and logistic support” and “directly assisted” its genocidal campaign.

The report names 33 present and former French politicians and military officers as conspirators, among them the late President François Mitterrand and other well-known figures like former foreign minister Alan Juppé and former prime minister Dominique de Villepin.

The report, commissioned by the government and prepared by a panel that heard from more than 150 witnesses, is not only a devastating account of France’s eager participation in mass murder. It is also the most provocative example in modern history of a victimized nation pointing a credible finger of blame at the supposedly virtuous West.

France armed Rwanda’s murderous regime, sent soldiers to support it as the genocide was unfolding, and accepted some of its most heinous perpetrators as “refugees” after rebels forced them from power. Later, France helped the genocidaires regroup in the Congo and launch a savage cross-border campaign aimed at retaking power so they could complete their murderous work.

Even as the genocide was unfolding, reports of France’s support for it began appearing in French newspapers. French soldiers who arrived in Rwanda believing that they had come to protect victims soon realized that they were, in fact, protecting killers, and several communicated their disgust to French journalists.

In 1995, President Jacques Chirac of France made a remarkably honest confession of his nation’s guilt. “France … delivered protected people to their horrors. These dark hours have sullied our history forever and are an insult to our past and our traditions.”

Unfortunately Chirac was not speaking about Rwanda, but about France’s delivery of French Jews to the Nazi murder machine during World War II. His statement suggests that it takes nations at least half a century before they can apologize for their misdeeds. Doctors Without Borders declared in 1998 that it was “high time the French government broke its traditional silence on its shameful role in the genocide.”

Foreign Minister Juppé responded indignantly that no one could question the “good intentions of our humanitarian intervention of that era,” and that the government would not consent to “investigating an action we should be proud of.”

Parliament eventually did convene an investigation, but it predictably absolved France of all guilt.

France, though, has never forgiven the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame, for deposing a French-backed regime and pulling Rwanda out of the Francophonie. In 2006 a French judge charged Kagame with assassinating his predecessor; Rwanda responded by breaking diplomatic relations with France.

The report last week is another volley in what has become one of the world’s most bitter diplomatic battles.

A spokesman for the French Foreign Ministry rejected the Rwandan report as “unacceptable.” That was a mistake. The report should be an occasion for French leaders to reflect on their country’s history in ways Western nations seldom do. Perhaps they could even break with the longstanding pattern of denial that has shaped so much of modern history.

Like all countries, France is built on national myths. If it can admit the evil that has pervaded its role in Africa, perhaps other countries could follow by confronting the sins of their past. That would be an admission that people who, in Joseph Conrad’s words, “have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves” are not the only ones guilty of the 20th century’s great crimes.

Stephen Kinzer is author of “A Thousand Hills: Rwanda’s Rebirth and the Man Who Dreamed It.”

By Stephen Kinzer

Find this story at 15 August 2008

Copyright 2009 The New York Times Company

France accused in Rwanda genocide (2008)

Rwanda has accused France of playing an active role in the genocide of 1994, in which about 800,000 people were killed.

An independent Rwandan commission said France was aware of preparations for the genocide and helped train the ethnic Hutu militia perpetrators.

The report also accused French troops of direct involvement in the killings.

It named 33 senior French military and political figures that it said should be prosecuted. France has previously denied any such responsibility.

Among those named in the report were the late former President, Francois Mitterrand, and the then Prime Minister Edouard Balladur.

Two men who went on to become prime minister were also named – Alain Juppe, the foreign minister at the time, and his then chief aide, Dominique de Villepin.

The French foreign ministry told the BBC it would only respond to the fresh allegations after reading the report, which was released on Tuesday afternoon.

Checkpoints

Earlier this year France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner denied French responsibility in connection with the genocide, but said political errors had been made.
The Rwandan government has urged the relevant authorities to bring the accused French politicians and military officials to justice

Rwandan justice ministry

Report raises issue of motive

Some 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by Hutu militias in just 100 days in 1994.

The report says France backed Rwanda’s Hutu government with political, military, diplomatic and logistical support.

It accuses France of training Hutu militias responsible for the slaughter, helping plan the genocide, and participating in the killings.

“French forces directly assassinated Tutsis and Hutus accused of hiding Tutsis… French forces committed several rapes on Tutsi survivors,” said a statement from the justice ministry cited by AFP news agency.

“Considering the seriousness of the alleged crimes, the Rwandan government has urged the relevant authorities to bring the accused French politicians and military officials to justice,” the statement said.

It further alleged that French forces did nothing to challenge checkpoints used by Hutu forces in the genocide.

“They clearly requested that the Interahamwes continue to man those checkpoints and kill Tutsis attempting to flee,” it said.

Testimonies

The BBC’s Geoffrey Mutagoma in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, says the commission spent nearly two years investigating France’s alleged role in the genocide.

It heard testimonies from genocide survivors, researchers, writers and reporters.

The 500-page document was presented to the Rwanda’s government last November, but was not made public until now.

Rwanda has repeatedly accused France of arming and training the Hutu militias that perpetrated the genocide, and of dragging its feet in co-operating with the investigations that followed.

France has maintained that its forces helped protect civilians during a UN-sanctioned mission in Rwanda at the time.

The two countries have had a frosty relationship since 2006 when a French judge implicated Rwandan President Paul Kagame in the downing in 1994 of then-President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane – an event widely seen as triggering the killings.

President Kagame has always denied the charge.

He says Mr Habyarimana, a Hutu, was killed by Hutu extremists who then blamed the incident on Tutsi rebels to provide the pretext for the genocide.

Page last updated at 17:25 GMT, Tuesday, 5 August 2008 18:25 UK

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Rwandan’s death is sinister

Johannesburg – At the time of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda a horrified missionary was famously reported as exclaiming there were devils left in hell and they had all gone to Rwanda.

The political legacy of that horror now appears to have moved to greater Johannesburg, as came into focus this week with the apparent assassination of shadowy former Rwandan spymaster ex-Colonel Patrick Karegeya in lurid circumstances in a room in Sandton’s top-end Michelangelo Towers Hotel.

Though the one-time head of Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame’s sinister external intelligence operation was apparently strangled – a bloodied towel and curtain cord were discovered in the hotel room’s safe together with the lifeless body on New Year’s Day – detectives were also investigating the possibility he had been drugged before the actual commission of the murder.

While the South African government has yet to point a finger of blame at Kagame’s government and officially continues to investigate the killing as an ordinary and not political murder, details that have come to light around Karegeya’s last hours strongly suggest a connection with the Rwandan regime.

According to Karegeya’s political associates, at the time of his death Karegeya had been in the company of a Rwandan national, a businessman called Appolo Kiririsi Gafaranga. A figure with a chequered history – a poly-linguist and dealer in grey weapons, and also drug trafficker convicted under UK law – Kiririsi had apparently convinced Karegeya of his bona fides as a fellow conspirator against Kagame’s authoritarian rule.

Though as yet no evidence has come to light of the presence of accomplices in the murder, Karegeya’s close associate and controversial fellow Rwandan dissident and former army chief General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa has said there was evidence that “no less than three or four men” had been present at the killing.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame, left, and his army chief of staff Maj. General Kayumba Nyamwisa consult their watches soon after addressing the first contingent of a Rwandan battalion who were pulled out of Congo at Kigali, the Rwandan capital in this file picture. (AP Photo/Rodrique NgowiI)

AP

Rwanda has emphatically denied any involvement in the murder.

The country’s high commissioner to South Africa, Vincent Karega, this week told sister paper, The Star, it did not make sense to blame his government for Karegeya’s death.

“Why would we have waited six years?” Karega asked, referring to the years Karegeya had stayed in South Africa.

Meanwhile allegations have surfaced in intelligence circles of a series of high-level meetings in the area of Gikondo in Rwanda late last year – including a briefing by Kagame himself on December 20 – at which the assignation was apparently planned and directed. Involving a hand-picked group of close Kagame associates, including members of his immediate family, the claimed killing network is allegedly co-ordinated by the head of Kagame’s military intelligence, Jack Nziza, and has been linked in the past to several kidnappings and attempted assassinations both inside Rwanda and in other African states, notably Kenya and Tanzania.

The dissident exile publication Ikaze Iwacu goes so far as to name the alleged six-man hit squad dispatched from Kigali to back up Kiririsi on his mission.

The same general network has been linked to two attempted assassinations on Nyamwasa in South Africa in 2010. In the same year, Karegeya – who had been living in exile in South Africa since fleeing Rwanda in 2007 – together with Nyamwasa and two other prominent former Kagame insiders established the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) in Johannesburg as an opposition in exile to their former political master.

17\03\06 Michelangelo tower in Sandton.Pic:Mike Dibetsoe 493

INLSA

Two men arrested in connection with the attempted assassinations will appear in court later this month. In the wake of the attempted assassinations and the ongoing refusal of the government to accede to Rwandan demands that the dissidents be extradited to face Rwandan justice after being convicted in absentia, diplomatic relations descended to an all-time low with the recall of South Africa’s ambassador to the Great Lakes country. More recently, South Africa emerged as a major driving force on the African stage in the deployment under the UN banner of a peace-keeping mission in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo with an unprecedented mandate to use force against militants threatening stability in the region. Especially targeted by the highly effective UN intervention force – whose major military asset emerged as the South African Rooivalk helicopter gunship – was the M23 rebel grouping. Though Rwanda continues to deny any involvement in M23, observers as well as UN analysts have consistently linked the insurgency to Kagame’s expansionist ambitions.

For its part, the Kagame administration – which, despite mounting evidence of human rights abuses and Machiavellian intrigue, presides over a strongly performing economy – accuses South Africa of meddling in its internal affairs and sponsoring its enemies. The claim is backed up by the fact that until 2011, Karegeya was under official South African protection and quietly furnished with political asylum. In the fallout from the 2010 assassination attempts, Nyamwasa continues to fall under the protection of the South African security apparatus, and no action has been taken against the RNC since its formation.

The International Crisis Group said Karegeya’s killing raised more questions on the safety of exiled Rwandese. The group’s Piers Pigou said South Africa and Rwanda “should engage” on the attacks.

“All we hear from the Rwanda government is denials and more denials. But there seems to be a pattern of attempts on lives of Rwandese in exile,” Pigou said.

In the meantime, the official protest against the dissident grouping has been strengthened by reports of links between the RNC and Hutu billionaires and other fugitive power-players linked to the Hutu genocide of Tutsis in the 1994 horrors.

In offering shelter to the Rwandan dissidents, South Africa also appears to be playing host to what seems a deeply sinister spook culture. The role attributed by Kagame’s critics to Jack Nziza was pioneered by Karegeya in his position as head of Rwanda’s external intelligence – co-ordinating cross-border kidnappings and alleged assassinations, before falling out with the Tutsi strongman in 2006 and serving an 18-month sentence in prison before his South African exile.

In 2011, a curious report appeared in the Burundian press around the death in Johannesburg of Rwandan singer Jean Christophe Matata on a concert tour in Johannesburg. Though no foul play was reported at the time, an unnamed woman said the death had followed a sequence of events springing from a sexual triangle with Karegeya as the third point of reference.

As she narrated it, she had revived, on a clandestine basis, a long-standing relationship with the singer, while at the same time offering sexual favours to Karegeya, whom she described as her “Boss” since he paid her for sex.

Thinking her dalliance with Matata was unknown, she went to see Karegeya, who confronted her with details of the illicit affair. He then proceeded, she says, to say he suspected Matata had been sent as a spy by Kagame to infiltrate his networks, and he was looking to access evidence to this effect.

At this point, she claims, he tasked her with slipping a drug (which he provided) into the singer’s drink at their next meeting, which would knock him out and allow for his baggage to be searched while he slept.

This, the woman claims, she did and Karegeya’s agents duly searched Matata’s effects. The plan, as she understood it, however, went awry when the singer never recovered from the sleeping draught, finally booking himself into hospital in Johannesburg where he breathed his last.

Hawks spokesman, Paul Ramaloko, could not be reached for comment yesterday. But on Friday he told the media the hunt for the killer of Karegeya was continuing. – The Sunday Independent

January 5 2014 at 11:55am

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Patrick Karegeya: Rwanda exile ‘murdered’ in Johannesburg

Patrick Karegeya formed an opposition party in 2010

Exiled former Rwandan intelligence chief Patrick Karegeya has been apparently murdered in a Johannesburg hotel room, South African police say.

They say the dissident might have been strangled, with a rope and bloodied towel found in the hotel room safe.

Mr Karegeya was stripped of the rank of colonel after falling out with his former ally, President Paul Kagame.

President Kagame’s allies have previously denied accusations of links to a series of dissident attacks.

Mr Karegeya, 53, formerly head of Rwanda’s foreign intelligence service, had lived for the past six years in South Africa, where he had been granted political asylum.

Ex-general Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa: “He must have been strangled”

A fellow exiled dissident, former army chief Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, has survived two assassination attempts since fleeing to South Africa in 2010.
Critics of Rwandan President Paul Kagame tend to flee the country as soon as they fall out with him because they fear it is too dangerous to stay.

But many have met mysterious deaths abroad, although the president and his allies have always denied any responsibility.

Rwanda’s first post-genocide Interior Minister, Seth Sendashonga, was shot dead in Nairobi shortly after resigning in 1996, leading to a diplomatic row between Kenya and Rwanda. The Metropolitan Police has warned two dissidents based in London of threats to kill them. And there were two attempts to kill former army chief Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa in South Africa.

The apparent murder of Patrick Karegeya, also in South Africa, will make Rwandan dissidents feel even less safe. His death is a big blow to the opposition party he founded, the Rwanda National Congress. But it also has the potential to be a huge embarrassment for President Kagame.

The pair formed a new opposition party – the Rwanda National Congress – in 2010.

Gen Nyamwasa told the BBC that Mr Karegeya had gone to the upmarket Michelangelo Towers hotel to meet “somebody he knew very well, somebody who had come from Kigali”.

He accused the Rwandan government of being behind the killing.

Rwanda’s ambassador to South Africa, Vincent Karega, dismissed this as an “emotional reaction and opportunistic way of playing politics”, reports The Associated Press news agency.

“We encourage the authorities to really look into the matter so that we know exactly what happened,” the Reuters news agency quotes him as telling local radio.

A police statement on Mr Karegeya’s death said: “Preliminary investigations revealed that his neck [was] swollen – there is a possibility that he might have been strangled.”

He leaves a widow and three children.

Rwandan exiles in several Western countries including the UK and US say local security agents have warned them of plots to kill them.

The Rwandan government has denied trying to kill its opponents.

Mr Karegeya and Gen Nyamwasa were among four exiled former top officials for whom Rwanda issued international arrest warrants in 2011.

A military court earlier sentenced them to long jail terms in absentia for threatening state security and promoting ethnic divisions.

Both men were part of Mr Kagame’s rebel forces which came to power in 1994, ending the genocide of their fellow ethnic Tutsis.

Mr Kagame has been accused of not tolerating opposition.

He maintains that Rwanda needs a strong government to prevent a return to ethnic conflict.

2 January 2014 Last updated at 09:07 ET

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Slain ex-spy scrapped SA security detail

Patrick Karegeya,Rwanda’s former spy chief, who was found dead, possibly strangled, in a hotel in Joburg.

Johannesburg – Rwanda’s murdered ex-intelligence chief agreed to scrap his South African security detail before he was strangled to death in a Johannesburg hotel room, according to a political ally.

Patrick Karegeya, 53, was discovered slumped on a bed by staff at the hotel on New Year’s Day, prompting accusations that Rwandan President Paul Kagame had ordered a hit.

Karegeya was the former head of Rwanda’s external intelligence service and once a close ally of Kagame. But after a decade spent as the gatekeeper to Rwanda’s foreign intelligence network he fell out of favour.

In 2007 he fled into exile in South Africa, where he became a fierce critic, describing Kagame as a dictator and alleging he had first-hand knowledge of the state killing of Rwandan dissidents abroad.

“When Karageya first entered this country… the South African government put him under state protection,” political ally Frank Ntwali told AFP late Thursday.

The decision was influenced by assassination attempts against former army chief of staff Kayumba Nyamwasa, another Rwandan exile in South Africa, according to Ntwali.

But in 2012 Karageya and the South African government had agreed to end the close protection, said Ntwali, who heads the Rwanda National Congress in Africa

“They agreed that they would allow him to walk without bodyguards or without protection, which has turned out to be a miscalculation,” said Ntwali.

“He was on his own,” he said.

Ntwali said his friend had expressed fears for his safety, but after years in South Africa became comfortable.

“He knew that his life definitely was in danger… that’s why he fled Rwanda, but I think he got to a level where he thought that here he would be able to evade them.”

In a last ill-fated meeting, Karageya had visited Johannesburg’s luxurious Michelangelo Towers hotel to talk with a man Ntwali named as a Rwandan national.

“This individual… was claiming to be running away as well from the regime of the Rwanda. He was claiming harassment, detention, expropriation of his properties.”

South African police did not respond to inquiries about the identity of the man. – AFP

January 3 2014 at 03:59pm

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