A French Travesty; June – August, 1994
Junior Senior Seminar: The Rwanda Genocide 960:192:1C
Professor Donna Maier
April 30, 2010
From April 6th, 1994 to the end of August, the world hoped, prayed, and in some cases lobbied for the individuals involved in the Rwanda Genocide. The world was not informed of any specifics as to what was happening but only that hundreds of thousands of people were dying at both the hands of others and the hands of God. In lieu of those individuals who could not help themselves, a small UN mandated force was developed to ease the suffering of those left standing. Unknown to the UN, the primarily French force played a very special role in the Rwandan crisis; one that makes the French government as, if not more responsible for the genocidal death of 800,000 people. The French were not the primary instigators of the atrocities that occurred throughout Rwandan history not the Germans or Belgians that held colonization rights to the country from February 26th, 1885 to July 1st, 1962. It was the Catholic Church and the Belgian colonizers who devised the Hutu/Tutsi divisions making Tutsi’s the supreme beings in Rwanda. After Rwandan independence, France took on a greater interest in the country for various arguable reasons. France therefore had much at stake in the domestic development and government in Rwanda. The relationship France had with the authoritarian Rwandan regime was close however the relationship France had with the second Hutu president, since their independence was even closer. President Juvénal Habyarimana took power on July 5th, 1973 and held it until his untimely death when his plane was shot down and hence triggered the mass annihilation of the Tutsi population. France successfully maintained ties with the country as a way to not only maintain its influence in the region but more importantly to deny influence from the Anglo
American countries. Beginning when Habyarimana took power, France increased its economic, political and military aid to Rwanda which ultimately led to not just an alliance between the two countries but also a friendship between two men, Habyarimana and French President François Mitterrand.
When the civil war broke out in Rwanda in 1990 between Rwanda’s army and the Tutsi led RPF (Rwandan Patriotic Front), Mitterrand gladly offered his assistance to his Hutu ally. The Tutsi’s had long been oppressed by the majoritive Hutu’s as the Tutsi’s once oppressed the Hutu’s. The Hutu’s however had a much different approach to quelling the Tutsi rebellions in the past; ethnic cleansing. It happened to be the cleansed who then invaded the country of Rwanda bent on at least a power sharing agreement between the political parties and not based on self-defined ethnicity. On October 1st, 1990, the RPF, now 4,000 strong and under the command of Colonel Fred Rwigyema crossed the Rwandan border at Kigitumba and took the town of Gabiro against a much larger but much less disciplined FAR (Forces Armées Rwandaises) force. Colonel Rwigyema was killed on the second day of fighting and the RPF began to take much greater losses.
These losses, at least in part can be attributed to the French military when 150 paratroopers arrived in Rwanda on October 4th in what the French called Operation Noroît. Eventually, 600 more French soldiers and nearly as many Belgians would arrive under the auspices of removing their own foreign nationals from harm’s way. Officially, French forces Jarnagin 4
acted as military advisors, communication specialists, and intelligence officers but in no way took part in the killing of the opponent. According to Colin Waugh, in reality Lieutenant Colonel Chollet, the paratrooper commander, was regarded as the commander in chief of military operations and that photographic evidence exists that place French troops not only at the front lines of the fighting but also in active combat against...