The killers had counted on international inaction and they were right. It took three weeks of slaughterwell-publicized, brutal slaughterfor the international community to begin recognizing the genocide and three months to send the troops meant to stop it.
On April 29 Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali finally acknowledged that the killing of civilians was distinct from the war, although related to it, and that it had to be ended. The same day, nonpermanent members of the Security Council who had followed the lead of the dominant actors rejected their direction and began to insist on more responsible action.The process of creating a second UNAMIR force, set in motion at that time, delivered peacekeepers to Rwanda in late July. By that time, the RPF had defeated the interim government and driven it into exile.
International leaders had available means other than armed force to influence the interim government but did not use them. They could have eliminated the hate radio, an action which would have had great symbolic as well as practical effect, but they did not do so. Nor did major donors ever threaten publicly that all financial assistance in the future would be withheld from a government guilty of genocide. Such a warning would have raised immediate concern among the many Rwandans who knew how much local and national authorities depended on foreign support and might have caused them to reject the interim government. The leading international actors continued to conduct diplomacy as usual, dealing with the interim government as a valid party to the negotiations which they hoped to broker. Belgium and the U.S. at one time refused to receive representatives of the interim government, but the effect of this exclusion was lessened by the welcome they received in Paris and at the U.N. Fourteen members of the Security Council tolerated a representative of Rwanda at their daily meetings, putting the observance of procedural decorum before the need to denounce a genocidal government and the crime it was committing.
The Security Council discussed an arms embargo at the end of April but imposed it only in mid-May, after thousands more had been slaughtered. The U.N. Human Rights Commission decided in late May that genocide might have been committed and mandated an investigation, with the possibility of judicial action against its perpetrators.
The potential effect of these measures, timid and late to begin with, was weakened by continued French support of the interim government. Some French policymakers, led by Mitterrand, were determined to block an RPF victory, even if it meant continuing to collaborate with genocidal killers until they could locate better representatives of the great majority. They launched Operation Turquoiseas much to prevent an RPF conquest of the entire country as to save civilian lives. In the end, the French soldiers did rescue thousands of persons, but instead of arresting the perpetrators of genocide, they permittedand in some cases apparently helpedthem to escape.
Zaire and the Seychelles assisted the interim government in obtaining arms, and arms dealers in Israel, Albania, and the United Kingdom continued to do business with authorities engaged in genocide. In addition, Zaire blocked the flight of Tutsi trying to escape the killing campaign and Kenya returned some evacuees to an almost certain death in Kigali.
International leaders took a very long time to admit the appropriateness of the term genocide and even then never fulfilled the legal or moral obligation to stop it.The End of April: Recognizing Genocide
In the last days of April, RTLM urged new attacks to finish cleaning up the city of Kigali before May 5, the day projected for Habyarimanas funeral. Dallaire, who took this call to slaughter seriously enough to deploy the guards mentioned above, also warned headquarters that the killers might be on the point of launching a new round of massacres. Dallaire or another U.N. officer in Kigali used the press to alert the public to the catastrophicsituation and the continuation of massive killings. He stated that if UNAMIR received the necessary resources, it could halt killings by the militia in Kigali immediately. Then he warned, Unless the international community acts, it may find it is unable to defend itself against accusations of doing nothing to stop genocide.1 In the last week of April also, U.N. Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Peter Hansen returned from a brief visit to Kigali, appalled by the extent of the horrors.
At the same time, U.N. officials reported outflows of hundreds of thousands of refugees, with the potential to upset the stability of adjacent countries. From April 28 to April 29, an estimated quarter of a million Rwandans fled to Tanzania. In Burundi, an attempted coup by paratroopers was averted, but served nonetheless to warn of the potential catastrophe if large-scale violence there were added to the slaughter in Rwanda.2
Many criticized the decision to reduce UNAMIR as reports of the killings continued. The Organization of African Unity accused the U.N. of applying a double standard by cutting troops in Rwanda while strengthening involvement in the former Yugoslavia.3 The president of Tanzania charged that the reduction of UNAMIR made it appear that the tragedy was of no concern to the international community.4 Human Rights Watch and FIDH stepped up their efforts to demand action from national governments and the U.N., as did a host of other humanitarian and human rights groups. On April 28, Oxfam issued a call for international action against the genocidal slaughter, an appeal seconded on May 1 by the European coalition of nongovernmental organizations known as Eurostep, which also recognized the slaughter as genocide. Oxfam organized a series of vigils that drew the attention of the secretary-general. The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had rarely seen a human tragedy on the scale of the massacres.5 All agreed that killers were slaughtering civilians away from the battlefront as part of a deliberate campaign against Tutsi and demanded that the U.N. protect them.
Statement by the Secretary-General
On April 29, the secretary-general finally acknowledged that the war and the civilian massacres constituted two different problems and that the mandate for UNAMIR established the week before dealt with the first, but not with the second. Although ready to assign responsibility for the massacres to uncontrolled military and armed groups of civilians, he portrayed them as independent actors, motivated by deep-rooted ethnic hatreds and taking advantage of the breakdown of law and order. Thus he continued to obscure the government-directed nature of the genocide and lent his credibility to the deliberately inaccurate depiction of the slaughter being disseminated by some representatives of France and by the genocidal government itself. Citing estimates that 200,000 people had been killed in the previous three weeks and warning of the implications for the stability of neighboring countries, he asked the council to consider forceful action to end the massacres. He suggested that rather than allocate the considerable resources required for a U.N. military operation, the council might chose to act throughdelegation to a member state. In this way, he opened the door to the later French military operation known as Operation Turquoise.6
Statement of the President of the Security Council
As the secretary-general was moving hesitantly towards dealing more effectively with the Rwandan crisis, the Security Council was forced by some of its nonpermanent members to confront the genocide for what it was. During the last week of April, the ambassador of the Czech Republic, Karel Kovanda, began to doubt the interpretation of the crisis as presented by the secretariat. Made aware of the genocidal nature of the slaughter through the press and information from Human Rights Watch and other groups, he called a Human Rights Watch representative on Saturday morning, April 30, to discuss the problem. He said, You can understand that the issue of Rwanda is not a national priority for the Czech Republic, but as a human being, I cannot sit here and do nothing.7 He had prepared a draft statement for the council that called the slaughter in Rwanda by its rightful name, genocide, and that warned the interim government of its responsibility for halting it. This attempt to lead the council to confront the genocide produced an acrimonious debate that lasted for eight hours. Rwanda profited from its seat on the council to delay proceedings and to attempt to weaken the statement. It was supported by its ally Djibouti, whose ambassador explained afterwards that some members of the council had not wanted to sensationalize the situation in Rwanda.8 China, generally opposed to dealing with human rights issues in the Security Council, reportedly opposed the use of the term genocide, as did Nigeria, a leader among the nonaligned members of the council. France continued its campaign to minimize the responsibility of the interim government for the slaughter. The delegate from United Kingdom, who initially derided the draft statement as laughable or words to that effect, opposed strong action by the council. As had been clear in the discussion of protection for displaced persons, his government wanted to keep commitments of the U.N. limited, apparently fearing the organization might collapse under the strain of trying anything more ambitiousthan its usual role of diplomacy. The U.S. delegation supported a fairly strong statement but one without the word genocide in it.9
Colin Keating, the ambassador from New Zealand, was to finish his term as president of the council at midnight. As it drew near that time, Keating announced his firm intention to have a text decided before he left the chair. Because presidential statements must be adopted unanimously, the supporters of various positions would have to compromise. To ensure that they did so, Ambassador Keating threatened to use his prerogative to declare the meeting an open session, which would have made public the positions of the various delegations. Those most opposed to a strong statement did not want that and so were obliged to agree on a statement that included the wording of the genocide convention, although it did not use the word genocide. The statement noted that most of the attacks on defenseless civilians had occurred in areas under the control of the interim government. It recalled that persons who instigated or participated in breaches of international humanitarian law were individually responsible and it directed the secretary-general to suggest how to investigate reports of such violations.
The council could not be pushed to do much about the genocide at that time. It requested the secretary-general to consult with the OAU to find a way to restore order in Rwanda. In a more forceful vein, it asked states to end arms deliveries and military assistance to the interim government and said it was prepared to impose an arms embargo.10
Yet the council had finally been obliged to debate the Rwandan crisis in depth and to hear an interpretation of the Rwandan crisis far more damning of the interim government than that presented by the secretary-general. The nonpermanent membersparticularly the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Spain, and Argentinawho at first had left leadership to the secretariat and to the dominant actors, took the initiative on April 30 to insist on measures to halt the genocide. They continued to inform themselves about the issue at a long briefing by a representative of Human Rights Watch organized by Kovanda two days later. In the weeks to come, they were among the most persistent members of the council in pushing for action in Rwanda. Had they been more accurately informed about the slaughter during the first week of April, they might have taken their responsible stand earlier and shamed other members and staff into joining them.Diplomacy as Usual
Even as officials in foreign governments and the U.N. were beginning to acknowledge the organized nature and enormous scale of the killing in Rwanda, they continued to engage in diplomacy as usual. One U.S. State Department official remarked that the Rwandan crisis differed from others she had experienced because events happened much faster than analysts could interpret them. It is true that the genocide took its toll with astonishing rapidity. But in the Rwandan case, the problem was not just the speed of events but their extraordinary nature. Diplomats are accustomed to dealing with wars; they are not yet accustomed to dealing with genocides.
Although increasingly willing to admit that the slaughter of civilians was an issue apart from the combat, the U.S. and other governments remained stuck in the familiar track of trying to bring the belligerents together.11 They sought to repeat their success at Arusha and, to this end, carried on contacts with everyone imaginable, as one State Department official put it. In early May, the U.S. ambassador to Rwanda and the assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs traveled to the region to try to mobilize neighboring African governments to put pressure on the warring parties. The French sent their ambassador to various African governments to do the same.
Achieving a cease-fire remained an unlikely goal because the interim government demanded that the RPF put down its guns before it end the killings of Tutsi and the RPF refused to stop firing while the slaughter of civilians continued. Focusing on these diplomatic manoeuvers led the U.S. and others to continue treating the genocidal government as a valid interlocutor which supported its efforts to present itself as legitimate at home as well as abroad. The wish to ensure neutrality in order to mediate the conflict kept officials from the frank and forceful condemnation of the genocide that might have affected Rwandans, both those most implicated in the killing and the moderates who dissented from it. On April 22, at the urging of Human Rights Watch, National Security Adviser Anthony Lake issued a statement calling on General Bizimungu, Colonel Bagosora, Colonel Nkundiye, and Captain Simbikangwa to do everything in their power to end the violence immediately.12 This innovative step remained an exception. One State Department official who recognized the potential value of drawing attention to the alleged leaders of the genocide despaired of getting any further action fromthe U.S. government and suggested that nongovernmental organizations publish a full-page notice in the international press denouncing those responsible for the slaughter. President Clinton did make a one-minute radio address to Rwanda on April 30. But the messagethat he hoped all Rwandans would recognize their common bonds of humanitywas so mild as to be worthless. In fact, it may have done more harm than good. Killers could take satisfaction that the U.S. president had no stronger words of reproach for them, while the victims could feel betrayed by the weakness of the remarks.
Human Rights Watch also asked both the State Department and the White House to mobilize the heads of all the major donor nations to make a joint statement, preferably in conjunction with the World Bank, vowing never to assist any government that had come to power through genocide. U.S. officials, and likely others, transmitted such warnings to General Bizimungu and other authorities privately, but they never delivered such a message publicly in a way that would have ensured its impact both on the genocidal authorities and on moderates who might have been encouraged to oppose them.13
Because it was well known that radio RTLM was inciting genocide, Human Rights Watch and others asked U.S. officials to jam the station. The State Department assigned a team of lawyers to examine the question, but they decided that an international agreement on broadcasting and the traditional American commitment to freedom of speech were more important than disrupting the voice of genocide. Efforts by FIDH and other organizations to obtain action on RTLM from European governments also produced no results.14
Throughout the first weeks of killing, international leaders refused to talk of genocide, apparently because they feared the legal and moral obligations that would follow from recognizing the crime. The U.N. discouraged use of the term and apparently cautioned Dallaire not to use it, perhaps after the press statement mentioned above. Claes also corrected himself in public after he mentioned genocide, saying We are not using that word, but thats what it is.15 The U.S.State Department and National Security Council told staff to acknowledge only that acts of genocide may have occurred.16
The pope actually used the word genocide in condemning the violence on April 27.17 Boutros-Ghali followed suit a few days later and various national leaders, beginning with French Minister Alain Juppé and representatives to a meeting of the European Union, two weeks after that.18 At the May 25 meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Commission, however, the delegates concluded only that genocide might have occurred and should be investigated (see below). The next day, the State Department declared that the question of whether genocide was taking place was under very active consideration. Only after the directive to avoid using the term was revealed in the New York Times on June 10 and was ridiculed by critics did U.S. Secretary of State Warren Christopher agree that use of genocide was appropriate when talking of Rwanda.19
In one of the few routine diplomatic actions to show public disapproval of the interim government, the U.S., Belgium, and a number of other governments refused to receive its delegations sent abroad at the end of April. But the impact of this refusal was at least in part counterbalanced by their being received at the United Nations. There the undistinguished Foreign Minister Jérôme Bicamumpaka, supported and directed by CDR leader Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza, took the seat of the Rwandan delegation at the May 16 meeting of the Security Council. In a somewhat incoherent and unconvincing address, Bicamumpaka attempted to justify the genocide, recounting for the diplomats many of the lies and distortions ordinarily delivered over RTLM. In addition to the usual assertions about the hundreds of thousands of Hutu killed by the RPF simply because they were Hutu, he introduced the novel allegation that RPF soldiers ate the hearts of their victims. He recounted that the radio in Rwanda was broadcasting messages of peace and that government leaders were crisscrossing the country to hold pacificationmeetings. He claimed in fact that the killing was finished, except in areas where fighting with the RPF continued.
The delegates of the fourteen other nations around the Security Council table then had a chance to comment. Given the rare opportunity to address directly a high-ranking official of a government that was even then carrying out genocide, representatives of Brazil, China, Djibouti, France, Oman, Pakistan, the Russian Federation, the United States, and Nigeria spoke only in the vaguest terms of humanitarian catastrophes, or at best said, the killings must stop without indicating who must stop them. Only the representatives of Argentina, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Spain, and the United Kingdom addressed remarks of varying sharpness to the messenger who would shortly be returning to Rwanda. The delegate of Nigeria, who spoke last, called on the international community to support the innocent civilians in Rwanda. But in this august setting, he and the representatives of eight other nations had missed an opportunity to do just that. They had failed to deliver a firm and unanimous denunciation of the genocide being executed by the government whose representatives sat at the table with them.20
Perhaps these Rwandan emissaries, or others who traveled to various African countries were subjected to frank criticism in private about the genocide, but, in public, diplomatic appearances were preserved. From what other Rwandans heard of these meetings abroad, they could surmise only that foreign governments and the U.N. as well had little knowledge of the genocide or did not think it merited serious comment.
The Organization of African Unity, which had promoted the Arusha negotiations and provided military observers before the U.N. became involved, proved no readier than the U.N. to call genocide by its rightful name. It opposed the reduction of UNAMIR, but referred to the slaughter as carnage and bloodletting and massacres and wanton killings.21 Fourteen heads of African states finally condemned genocide in early June, but at the OAU summit in mid-June, Interim President Sindikubwabo was seated as the representative from Rwanda. That meeting, which described the killings as crimes against humanity,provided the occasion for discussions that produced a cease-fire that was never executed.22UNAMIR II
At the same meeting where Rwandan representatives tried to explain away the genocide, the Security Council finally voted to send a second UNAMIR force to Rwanda. Had the new force been mobilized quickly, it might have rendered real assistance to the innocent civilians spoken of by the Nigerian representative. But just as the council was slow in authorizing it, so the various national and international bureaucracies were slow in implementing it. The new force arrived too late to protect Tutsi from genocide.
The secretary-general had been asking member states to provide troops for Rwanda since early May. No nation outside the continent was likely to send soldiers to Rwanda and, in fact, it proved very difficult to muster the needed forces from other African countries. But by May 10, the supply of troops seemed well enough assured to proceed with crafting the mandate for the force. The U.S., in its first official application of PDD 25, wanted to go carefully through all the steps devised in Washington. Just when the process appeared finished and a resolution in sight for Friday, May 13, the U.S. delegation announced it had no instructions for the vote, forcing a postponement until May 16.23
In the resolution adopted on May 17,24 the Security Council still eschewed the word genocide although once again using the words of the 1948 Genocide Convention. It mentioned again that such crimes were punishable under international law and, for the first time, drew attention to the role of the mass media in inciting violence. The mandate itself provided for contributing to the security and protection of displaced persons, refugees and civilians at risk in Rwanda and for providing security to humanitarian relief operations. It broadened the sphere of responsibility from the city of Kigali to Rwanda as a whole and it authorized secure humanitarian areas, so recognizing and enlarging upon what UNAMIR had been doing in practice in Kigali since the start of the crisis. Although still officially a Chapter VI mandate, this charge recognized that UNAMIR may berequired to take action in self-defense against persons or groups who threaten protected sites and populations, making it really a chapter six and a half operation. The difference in mandate from that of UNAMIR I was, in fact, very small, except in terms of the larger geographical area of responsibility. The real difference was in the size of force projected, some 5,500 troops, a number that Dallaire himself had said would be necessary to stop the genocide. The resolution also imposed an arms embargo against the government of Rwanda.25
At the time of the vote, the U.S. delegation required further information and field assessments before deploying the full force. Dallaire had proposed having UNAMIR II land in Kigali where its troops could most rapidly end the massacres, but the U.S. feared the force might then become caught in combat between the Rwandan army and the RPF. Instead it favored deploying the troops on the periphery of Rwanda where they could establish safe zones to protect civilians. One reason for caution was the strong position taken by the RPF against a second UNAMIR force (see below). Neither the U.N. nor the U.S. nor any other national actors wished to risk a confrontation between peacekeepers and a force that had appeared very effective in combat.
For the peacekeepers in Kigali, the wait for authorization of a new force had seemed interminable. They understood that action by the Security Council would not necessarily deliver prompt assistance to Rwanda and to UNAMIR I. Executive Director Abdul Kabiah tried to convey a sense of urgency that might spur the various national and international bureaucracies to faster action. He told the press:
We need logistical support, armoured personnel carriers (APCs) and troops to stop the carnage. Everyone is appalled by the killing but the world must back up this kind of concern and act now.26
The lengthy exchanges about plans, troops, finances, logistics, and strategy between Washington and the U.N.complete with mutual recriminations about unnecessary delaysfinally produced the authorization for UNAMIR II on June 8, two months and a day after the first slaughter and more than five weeks after the secretary-general had announced the need for a new force. Because the African soldiers to be sent lacked essential equipment, the secretariat then engaged in further long exchanges to obtain the necessary provisions from better-equippednations. In a process that was already well-established in other peacekeeping operations, the troop-supplying nations used this as an opportunity to squeeze the maximum amount from the wealthier nations, while the latter sought to keep their contributions to a minimum. The U.S. was much criticized for its outrageous delay of seven weeks in negotiating the conditions of delivery for fifty armored personnel carriers. It appeared that the problems had to do with adequate payment for transport and spare parts. But other wealthy nations also contributed little or contributed it slowly. The U.K., for example, came up with only fifty trucks.27
Such delays were not unusual in mustering U.N. operations. What was unusual was the context of the operation. In its June 8 resolution, the Security Council had finally used the word genocide, not in its full brutality, but in the more tentative form acts of genocide. Even though its members had acknowledged the crime for what it was, they could not get the additional troops to Rwanda in time to make any difference. In mid-June, Clinton was criticized by members of Congress and the press for tolerating the delays. He then directed U.S. officials to move faster to help get the new U.N. force to Rwanda.28 But if this effort had results in Washington, it seems to have done little to cut through the red tape and to move the bureaucrats in New York. It was business as usual, as it had been diplomacy as usual, with no sense of the lives lost through delay. After the RPF had won the war and established a new government on July 19, there were still about the same number of UNAMIR soldiers in Rwanda as there had been at the time of the withdrawal in April.29Human Rights Agencies
The genocide in Rwanda began just after José Ayala Lasso assumed the newly created post of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. The office had been established not only to give greater visibility to human rights but also to permit faster and more flexible reactions to crises than were possible with the somewhat cumbersome Human Rights Commission. At the request of variousnational governments and nongovernmental organizations, the high commissioner visited Rwanda in early May. There he pressed the interim government to allow the evacuation of Tutsi trapped at the Mille Collines and other sites in Kigali. Soon after the Rwandan authorities became more cooperative in permitting evacuations, perhaps as a consequence of his efforts and of their growing concern with their image abroad.30 Lassos report, issued on May 19, 1994 described the killings in Rwanda as a human rights tragedy of unprecedented dimensions and made clear that those in command of the killings must be held individually responsible for their violations of international law. But it was only in the context of urging all players to end the tragedy that he mentioned genocide, asking for strict observance of international conventions, including that against genocide.31
Although the high commissioner showed early awareness of the crisis and courage in going to assess its extent personally, he failed to translate his concern into forceful action. Rather than suggest new strategies for coping with the catastrophe, he issued the expected calls to stop the violence and the usual warnings about the consequences of not stopping. He also proposed a special meeting of the Human Rights Commission and suggested that the commission consider appointing a special rapporteur with a supporting staff of human rights field officers. These measures, which were taken, were valuable, but only in the longer term.32 After his initial visit and report, the high commissioner made no sustained, vigorous effort to keep the genocide before the international community and to insist on action in this crisis which, although just one of his responsibilities, was certainly the most urgent.
The U.N. Human Rights Commission, which had refused to discuss the case of Rwanda in open session in 1993, was called into emergency session on the initiative of Canada on May 25, 1994 to deal with the ongoing slaughter. After a day and a half of formal denunciations of the violence by professional diplomats, it heard an afternoon of less polished but more heart-rending testimony by representatives of Rwandan and international nongovernmental organizations. Although a number of delegates, including those from France and the U.S. spokeof genocide or acts of genocide, the final resolution did not acknowledge that genocide had occurred. Rather it named a special rapporteur to investigate if genocide had in fact taken place.33 At the meeting, diplomats and activists pressed for an international tribunal to bring to trial those accused of genocide.
The Human Rights Commissions special rapporteur on Rwanda, René Degni-Ségui, presented his first report on June 28. He concluded that genocide had been committed in Rwanda and should be punished by an international tribunal. He also condemned executions and assassinations of Hutu by the RPF.34 On July 1 the Security Council created a Commission of Experts to evaluate the evidence of serious human rights violations including possible acts of genocide in Rwanda with the expectation that an international tribunal would be established to deal with them, as had been done recently in the case of former Yugoslavia.35
International denunciations and the associated threat of action by an international tribunal worried some of those responsible for the genocide. RTLM sought to dispel their concerns by claiming that the international disapproval resulted from RPF propaganda, such as that which had convinced U.S. senators to write to Clinton denouncing the killings as genocide.36 Censure by foreigners would be fleeting said RTLM, having been provoked by the action of the Inkotanyi girls who spread their legs in hotels...[to seduce the European] and recount to him the anguish of their brothers...in order to get the Rwandan government and the FAR [Rwandan army] condemned for genocide. The announcer continued,
I would like...to remind the FAR that if we fight well and win, the Europeans will forget these stories of commissions; they will forget these stories of embargoes; all these things that they are talking about, and even foreign aid will be re-established...
We cannot do anything else to shut up those people who try to discourage us by threatening to bring us before an international tribunal, or wherever...All who seek to demoralize us, we must fight them.37
RTLM responded quickly to news of the special rapporteurs report and the Security Council resolution. On July 2, Kantano Habimana declared that the international community had done nothing to punish slaughter in Burundi in 1972 or in 1993 and that the International Tribunal for Bosnia had not convicted anyone. Perhaps using the strategem of accusing in a mirror, Kantano Habimana concluded, So for Rwanda, they cannot say anything that will worry us...let us continue to do our work and to fight against the Inyenzi-Inkotanyi that began this combat and that has since already killed more than a million people.38
The apparent impact of international censure, even at this late date when so many had committed themselves to the killing campaign, suggests that similar denunciations, made earlier and more forcefully, could have swayed the decisions of those not yet active in the genocide.Arms and Ammunition
The message of condemnation of the genocide, sent in a tardy and hesitant way, was counterbalanced throughout these months of horror by another message from international actors indicating acquiescence in the slaughter. A small number of persons, officially and unofficiallyin such countries as France, the United Kingdom, Israel, Albania, South Africa, the Seychellessupplied the weapons needed by the authorities who were executing the killing campaign. (For the case of France, see below.)
On April 10, in one of its first actions, the newly installed interim government made contact with the Mil-Tec corporation, arms dealers in the United Kingdom, to place an urgent order for U.S.$854,000 worth of arms and ammunition.39 A weeklater, it sent Lt. Col. Cyprien Kayumba on a two month mission to Kinshasha, Nairobi, Paris, Tunis, Cairo and Tripoli in search of arms.40 Bagosora also went to the Seychelles and apparently to Malta and perhaps elsewhere to buy weapons.41 Ndindiliyimana went to Europe in June with the charge to speed lagging deliveries.42 Other emissaries may also have been sent to attempt to purchase firearms.43
Clearly the interim government placed great importance on ensuring a supply of weapons and ammunition. Clearly also it was ready even to change policy to avoid an interruption in the flow of arms. As official statements down to the level of the commune show, pacification was in part a response to the fear that the supply of arms would be disrupted. (See above.) On one level, continued deliveries were important to the legitimacy of the interim government, as an indicator that the international community was prepared to tolerate even if it did not approve of the genocide. On a practical level, the guns and bullets were needed to fight the RPF, a consideration which weighed especially heavily with the military officers in charge of combat. In addition, the firearms were needed in exterminating the Tutsi. Some foreign observers have minimized the importance of firearms in the genocide. Colonel Marchal, for example, stated that the massacres were done by militias with machetes, an opinion voiced also by Kofi Annan.44 Certainly most assailants killed Tutsi with machetes, hammers, clubs, and other such weapons. But, as the evidence above shows, soldiers and milita slew thousands of civilians with firearms and grenades. They used these weapons also to terrorize tens ofthousands of others, paralyzing them before assailants who killed them by other means. At massacre sites, bullet shells litter the ground and holes in walls and ceilings testify to the use of the grenades. Witnesses from various regions agree that the attacks began with the use of firearms, including sometimes even heavy weaponry. They also agree that the guards at most important barriers had at least one firearm or several grenades which they used to execute Tutsi or to intimidate them to make it easier to kill them in other ways.
As is often the case with the profitable arms trade where a multiplicity of parties compete, official or unofficial actors from at least thirteen countries participated in the commercial transactions that kept Rwanda supplied with arms. In addition to the French authorities and private agents (discussed below), government officials in the Seychelles twice shipped arms to Rwanda. Bagosora himself went there to negotiate the delivery of some eighty tons of arms and ammunition at a cost of some U.S.$330,000. The government of Zaire provided an essential link in the supply line by permitting its airports at Kinshasha and Goma to be used for the delivery of arms that were then shipped on to Rwanda.45
Arms dealers in Israel, the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Albania had no scruples about selling weapons to authorities who were executing a genocide. Lieutenant Colonel Kayumba arranged for the delivery of five different shipments from the Mil-Tec Corporation, operated by two Kenyans, Anup Vidyarthi and Rakeesh Gupta, and under the directorship of two British subjects, John and Trevor Donnelly. Rwandan records show that Mil-Tec shipped U.S.$5.5 million worth of ammunition and grenades on April 18, April 25, May 5, May 9, and May 20. They obtained the first two shipments in Israel and the later ones from Albania. Shipping documents show that Mil-Tec used an aircraft registered in Nigeria but leased from a company in the Bahamas to make its deliveries.46 In another case, a South African plane reportedly delivered arms to Butare airport at the end of May, as mentioned above.
According to correspondence between Mil-Tec and the National Westminster Bank in the U.K., Mil-Tec deposited payments for arms sales to Rwanda in anaccount there. A U.N. commission investigating the traffic in weapons to Rwanda found that banks in Belgium (Banque Bruxelles Lambert), France (Banque National de Paris), Switzerland (Union Bancaire Privée, Geneva), Italy (Banca Nazionale de Lavoro), and in the U.S. (Federal Reserve Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank) also handled financial transactions involved in the purchase of weapons.47
Because the profitable trade in small arms is not subject to the same monitoring as the traffic in heavier weapons and involves so many actors, observers sometimes conclude that arms embargoes targeting such weapons can be nothing more than futile gestures. In the Rwandan case, once the Security Council had declared an arms embargo on May 17, arms dealers took the usual route of obtaining false declarations from friendly governmentsin this case, Zaireto hide continued traffic. Bagosora used this device in the Seychelles, presenting false documentation and claiming to be an officer in the army of Zaire. In another case, Zaire issued the necessary false documents for two arms dealers who intended to transfer arms stocked in Belgium to Goma for Rwandan use.48
Still the embargo did slow and hinder the delivery of weapons to the interim government. The government of Egypt, which had been negotiating an exchange of weapons for tea then stocked at Mombasa, ended discussions after the imposition of the embargo. The government of Libya, which had also promised arms, in the end delivered none, perhaps because of the embargo.49 South African officials reportedly refused to violate the embargo but offered to help Bagosora obtain arms by other means.50 The government of the Seychelles asserts that it unknowingly violated the embargo because it believed the arms to be destined for Zaire and that it canceled a planned third shipment of arms when it learned this wasnot the case. In fact, Seychelles authorities may have known that the arms were meant for Rwanda even at the time of the first shipments. They may have refused to send the third shipment because the local press had embarrassed them by publicizing the deal.51 In June, the British government issued an order prohibiting firms in the U.K. from selling arms from a third country to Rwanda as the Mil-Tec Corporation had been doing.52 At about the same time, U.S. authorities may have blocked the transfer of funds from the Federal Reserve Bank that were intended to pay for the last shipment of the Mil-Tec Corporation.53 In a case to be discussed below, the French company SOFREMAS, ready to do business for U.S.$8 million worth of arms on May 6 reportedly decided in the end not to do so because of the embargo.54
The arms embargo, first mentioned on April 30, was imposed only on May 17, after thousands more people had been slaughtered. After that time, governments acted to enforce compliance on individuals and corporations operating on their territory only slowly or not at all. Rwandan authorities feared a disruption in the flow of arms and the prospect of an embargo was one of the most important spurs to the policy of pacification. Had the embargo been put in place earlier and enforced more rigorously, it might have pushed the interim government to end the slaughter instead of just changing the way it was carried out.Vive La Cooperation Franco-Rwandaise
Even as the number of victims of genocide mounted, some French officials pursued the goal of assuring the heirs of Habyarimana the predominant political role in Rwanda. In so doing they weakened the impact of weak and tardy efforts to halt the slaughter and strengthened the resolve of the genocidal government. The French had hoped to use the U.N. peacekeepers to protect the Rwandan government against the RPF, but this strategy collapsed with the renewal of combat and the withdrawal of UNAMIR into passivity. President Mitterrand and some ofthe military closest to him were not prepared to accept the prospect of a RPF victory. General Christian Quesnot, head of the presidents own military staff, and General Jean-Pierre Huchon, who had been part of Mitterrands military staff until he became head of the French military assistance program in mid-1993, apparently shared and shaped Mitterrands analysis of the Rwandan situation.55 Mitterrand, military officers with links to Rwanda, and many political leaders as well, had assimilated the doctrine of the rubanda nyamwinshi propagated by Hutu Power advocates. Like them, they unquestioningly equated the ethnic majority to the political majority. Whether they chose to speak of Hutu representing 80 percent of the Rwandan population or of Tutsi comprising 15 per cent of the total (the missing 5 percent was never mentioned), they never doubted that Hutu had the right to dominate political life. That the minority was supported by their Anglo-Saxon rivals only reinforced their loyalty to the Hutu.56 With the resumption of combat, some high-ranking military officers held even more strongly to their belief that the RPF were Black Khmers and some privately challenged the Arusha Accords. One told a researcher, Arusha is Munich, referring to the classic case of appeasement of the Nazis that preceded World War II.57 Soldiers used terms like Tutsiland and Hutu country in private correspondence and even in official orders.58 For policymakers and soldiers trapped in this ethnic analysis of the situation, Habyarimana had been the quintessential representative of the majority people. With his death, they saw the circle of those identified with him as the only leaders likely to succeed in withstanding the RPF threat.
Getting Your Hands Dirty
The Rwandan politicians who formed the interim government on April 8 realized the importance of French support and kept French Ambassador Jean-Michel Marlaud well informed of their progress toward taking control. He found the new government acceptable even though it was composed exclusively of HutuPower supporters and even though it had refused his suggestion to make Faustin Twagiramungu, designated prime minister by the Arusha Accords, head of the government instead of Kambanda.59 The day after its installation, the interim government sent its foreign minister to ask Marlaud for French troops to contain the situation.60
French soldiers were supposed to have left Rwanda in December 1993 under the terms of the Arusha Accords. Only twenty-four remained officially after this date, as part of a military training program for the army general staff, the National Police and other units. But according to Michel Roussin, then Minister of Cooperation, forty to seventy soldiers were actually in Rwanda in early April.61 Within minutes after the plane was shot down, French soldiers were at the site of the crash, although UNAMIR soldiers were prevented by Rwandan troops from approaching it. The next morning, four French soldiers stood guard outside the Habyarimanas home while members of the Presidential Guard escorted visitors in and out.62 Early on April 9, French soldiers secured the airport for the arriving evacuation force, working in close cooperation with Rwandan army troops, and they served as intermediary between the Rwandan soldiers and the Belgian evacuation force, then regarded as hostile by the Rwandans.63
The deputy defense attaché at the French embassy, Lt. Col. Jean-Jacques Maurin, was in charge of the troops because the defense attaché was out of the country. Maurin, who had served as adviser to the general staff since 1992, was well-acquainted with Rwandan military leaders and presumably well-placed to influence them. According to Ambassador Marlaud, he and Maurin tried on the afternoon of April 7 to persuade Bagosora to take control of the situation,ignoring the fact that he was already in control of the violence.64 Otherwise there has been no account of the role played by these French advisers during the first days of the crisis, when the officers whom they had been training were ordering their troops to slaughter civilians. Nor has there been an explanation of the duties of the two French soldiers slain by the RPF, along with the wife of one of them, on April 8. They were supposedly found in possession of communications equipment. Some officers in Belgian military intelligence believed that the French had tapped the phone system in Kigali.65
For several days, the French considered meeting the request of the interim government for military assistance. According to a commission of the French National Assembly that investigated the Rwandan tragedy, the evacuation operation had a strictly humanitarian purpose but could have developed into something other than a simple humanitarian operation.66 They mention that the force came equipped with Milan missles and that a group of thirty-five men, at least one of them an intelligence expert, remained in Rwanda under Maurins orders even after the embassy had been closed and all the foreigners and other French soldiers had been evacuated. The contingent left behind was ordered to gather information on the local situation, propose appropriate action, and guide air support operations. As the commission notes, it is difficult to imagine for whom the air support might be destined if not the Rwandan army.67
The relative weakness of the government troops and the rapid advance of the RPF must have discouraged decision makers in Paris from attempting yet one more rescue of the Rwandan army. The French had also consulted with at least the U.S. and Belgium about some form of intervention, as mentioned above, and had found them unwilling to participate. According to official records, the last of the French troops was withdrawn on April 14.
Some soldiers long committed to supporting Rwandan colleagues regretted this decision. Col. Jean Balch, one of that group, commented:
...it would have taken very little (a few French military advisers) to reverse the situation. June 1992 and February 1993 [when French aid had halted the RPF] could perfectly well have been replayed in April 1994.68
Unwilling to provide military aid, the French provided discreet but vital political support to the interim government, at the U.N., in diplomatic exchanges with other governments, and through public statements.69 They argued, as did the Kigali authorities, that the massacres were a virtually inevitable response to RPF military advances.70 They often refused to acknowledge the role of Rwandan authorities in directing the genocide; as late as June 22, French military officers spoke of the need to help authorities reestablish control over the killers.71 At other times, they admitted the responsibility of the interim government, but sought to minimize it by depicting the genocide as part of a particularly vicious tribal war with abuses on both sides.72 In an interview with representatives of Human Rights Watch and the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues, Mitterrands chief adviser on Africa, Bruno Delaye, conceded that the Hutu had done terrible things, but he insisted that it was because they were fighting for their lives. It was regrettable, but that was the way Africans were.73 On May 16, then Foreign Minister Alain Juppé became one of the first important statesmen to use the term genocide in referring to Rwanda, but in mid-June he wrote about genocides, suggesting both sides were engaged in the crime.74
Using the pretext of keeping contact with all parties to the conflict, Juppé and Delaye welcomed to Paris the delegation of the interim foreign minister, Jérôme Bicamumpaka, and CDR head Jean-Bosco Barayagwiza. Although a French government spokesman described the visit as unofficial, the two were received at the French Presidency and at the Office of the Prime Minister. At the time, Human Rights Watch questioned a French representative in Washington about the meetings and was told that French officials had used the occasion to press for an end to the massacres.75 In Paris, Delaye answered a similar question from Daniel Jacoby, then President of FIDH, by saying that it was better to talk to them than not to.76 Challenged subsequently about the wisdom of meeting with representatives of a government engaged in genocide, Delaye stated that he had received 400 assassins and 2,000 drug trafficers in his office. You cannot deal with Africa, he asserted, without getting your hands dirty.77
During the 1998 inquiry at the National Assembly, Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine, who was secretary-general at the French Presidency in 1994, was asked why France had accorded legitimacy to the genocidal government. He responded that:
It was not a question of legitimacy or illegitimacy, which is based in a democratic way of thinking not appropriate in the context of the period.... France does not select and does not judge some as more than legitimate than others. It saw that there was a terrible conflict which it watched with consternation since its purpose had been for years...to prevent that conflict. Hence its desire to negotiate a cease-fire, which required continuing a dialogue with all the parties.78
In fact, as shown above, other governments also continued discussions with the interim authorities but found more private ways to do so. If French officials chose such a highly visible way to maintain contact with the genocidal government, they did so fully aware of the political message being sent. It made genocide seem respectable in Paris, an encouragement to its supporters in Rwanda and a lever for the interim government to use in securing entry in other capitals abroad.
According to former minister of cooperation, Bernard Debré, Mitterrand at first remained very attached to former President Habyarimana and his family, and to everything that was part of the old regime.79 This attachment took the concrete form of a gift of some U.S.$40,000 to Madame Habyarimana at the time of her arrival in France, a sum that was designated as urgent assistance for Rwandan refugees and was taken from the budget of the Ministry of Cooperation.80 This grant provoked such anger among staff of the ministry that information about it was leaked to the press. Ministry staff also formally and unanimously demanded that money budgeted by the Ministry of Cooperation for Rwanda be used for humanitarian assistance for the people of the country and deplored the French refusal to evacuate Rwandan employees, some of whom had worked with the French for many years.81
French authorities occasionally used their influence to protect people, as when they intervened at the Hotel Mille Collines. Just after the mid-May incident, an official at the foreign ministry remarked to a reporter that the success of the initiative shows to what extent Paris can still influence events.82 But when asked to use their power to produce a more general change in the policies of the interim government, French officials often professed having no means to do so. Two weeks after the first incident, Delaye told representatives of Médecins sans Frontières that he could not exert influence on Rwandan authorities because he could not get them on the telephone.83 When asked to comment four years later on whether pressurefrom Paris had brought about change in the policies of the genocidal government, a high-ranking French official familiar with the Rwandan dossier replied, What pressure? There was no pressure.84
Aid to the Rwandan Armed Forces
Official deliveries of arms by the French government to other governments are regulated by well-defined rules, but in the case of Rwandaas in many othersthe rules were rarely followed. According to the National Assembly investigative commission, thirty-one of thirty-six deliveries of weapons to Rwanda during the years 1990 to 1994 were made without following the rules.85 According to the commission, there were no legal and official deliveries of arms after April 8, 1994, a position reiterated by an official from the Ministry of Defense. But the commission left open the possibility of other kinds of deliveries linked to France, saying specifically that its report did not exhaust the reality of the subject.86 Speaking privately, various military officers and officials in the ministries of cooperation and defense indicated that deliveries of weapons by French actorsperhaps unofficially, illegally, or transacted outside Francetook place while the genocide was going on.87 Bernard Debré reported his impression that France might have supplied arms for some time after the start of the genocide. He stated that he asked Mitterrand about this and the French president replied, Do you think that the world woke up on April 7 saying today the genocide is beginning?88
According to a U.N. military observer, one of the three French planes that delivered the troops of the evacuation mission also brought cases of ammunition for mortars. French officials had informed UNAMIR that the first planes bringing troops of the evacuation force would land at 6 a.m. on April 9 but they actuallyarrived more than two hours early. Rwandan soldiers, correctly informed of the arrival time, had removed the trucks blocking the runway to allow the plane to land. The ammunition was unloaded from the plane and taken away by Rwandan army vehicles.89
Research done by the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch established that the French government or French companies operating under government license delivered arms to the Rwandan forces five times in May and June through the town of Goma, just across the border from Gisenyi, in Zaire.90 The first of these shipments may have taken place before May 17, when the Security Council imposed an embargo on the supply of arms to the interim government, but it was still done in disregard of its April 30 appeal to refrain from providing arms or any military assistance to the parties to the conflict. On one of the dates in question, May 25, a plane from Malta landed at Goma with a single passenger, T. Bagosora, in addition to its cargo.91
Lt. Col. Cyprien Kayumba spent twenty-seven days in Paris in an effort to speed the supply of arms and ammunition to the Rwandan army. During that time, he was reportedly a regular visitor to the office of French military cooperation, where he frequently saw its head, General Huchon.92 Just two days after the visit of Barayagwiza and Bicamumpaka to French officials, Kayumba submitted a large order for arms to SOFREMAS, Société Française dExploitation de Matériels et Systèmes dArmement, an enterprise controlled by the French state that serves as intermediary between French arms manufacturers or dealers and countries seeking arms. According to correspondence later recovered from the archives of the Rwandan Ministry of Defense, SOFREMAS wrote Kayumba on May 5 at his Paris address, stating that they were prepared to ship U.S.$8 million worth ofammunition of South African manufacture as soon as they received a payment of 30 percent of the price and the necessary EUC/Zaire. EUC stands for End User Certificate, the formal attestation by a government that the arms purchased were for its own use and not for resale or transshipment elsewhere. This document was to be provided by Zaire in a clear attempt to hide the real purchaser of the arms, which would have been shipped to Goma, not to Kigali. Although the arms embargo had not yet been voted by the Security Council, SOFREMAS knew it would be embarassing to be discovered supplying arms to Rwanda during a period when a genocide was being executed.
On May 5, the day that SOFREMAS confirmed its deal with Kayumba, the French cabinet decided that all authorizations for the export of arms to Rwanda would be suspended and that no new authorisations would be accorded. This decision confirmed a provisional suspension that had been in effect since April 8.93 The director of SOFREMAS, Germaine Guell, states that the U.S.$8 million order was cancelled by SOFREMAS once the arms embargo went into effect and that company made no further shipments to Rwanda after May 17.94 This carefully worded statement, like those of the government ministers, did not exclude deliveries to Zaire. In fact, Guell explicitly conceded that it is possible and even probable that Mobutus government agreed to have Goma serve as a conduit for material meant for Rwanda. He admitted that his company had been asked to deliver arms in this waythe mention of the End User Certificate in the document cited above proves that they had actually agreed to this arrangementbut he declares that they did not do so. He hastened to add that the practice of deliveries through Zaire must have ended quickly. He remarked, It would take a pretty unscrupulous government to deliver materiel to Zaire that it knew would end up in Rwanda.95
Admiral Jacques Lanxade, chief of staff of the French army, discounted any impact of French-delivered arms on the genocide. In a radio interview on June 29, 1994 he said, We cannot be reproached with having armed the killers. In any case,all those massacres were committed with sticks and machetes.96 Lanxade was wrong about the importance of the use of firearms in the genocide, as data above shows. But even apart from any direct link between arms delivered by French actors and those used in massacring civilians, providing weapons desperately needed by the Rwandan armed forces in its war against the RPF strengthened a government engaged in genocide.
Lt. Col. Ephrem Rwabalinda of the Rwandan army came to Paris to press for more extensive aid than just arms. He reported on his four-day mission to the headquarters of French military assistance in a May 16 letter to the Rwandan minister of defense and chief of staff of the army.97 On May 9, Rwabalinda had the first of a series of meetings with General Huchon. He requested French political support in the international community, French soldiers to be sent to Rwandaat least some instructors who could help out under a military assistance program, and what he called the indirect use of foreign soldiers, regular or irregular (i.e., mercenaries). He also cited several urgent needs: at least 2,000 rounds of 105mm ammunition and ammunition for individual arms, even if this had to be delivered indirectly through neighboring friendly countries.
By Rwabalindas account, Huchon told him that a secure telephone to permit encoded conversations between himself and General Bizimungu had already been sent from Paris and was awaiting shipment from Ostend. The French had also sent seventeen small radio sets to facilitate communications between various units and Kigali. Huchon reportedly stressed that it was urgent to locate a usable airfield where landings could be made in complete security. They agreed that Kamembe, in the southwestern town of Cyangugu, was the most likely site, provided that the runway was repaired and that spies were driven away from the airport.
When Rwabalinda pushed for more immediate aid, Huchon is said to have stated very clearly that French soldiers had their hands and feet tied and could not intervene to help the Rwandan army and interim government because of the bad press they had been getting. Unless something were done, Huchon reportedly stressed, Rwandan military and leaders will be held responsible for the massacres committed in Rwanda. They must prove the legitimacy of their war to turn international opinion back in favor of Rwanda in order to be able to resumebilateral aid. According to Rwabalinda, Huchon said that in the meantime the French military cooperation service is preparing measures to save us.
Rwabalinda reported that Huchon returned several times to this pointthat the French government would not put up with accusations of helping a government condemned by international opinion if that government did not do what was necessary to defend itself. The media war is urgent and all subsequent operations depend on it. Huchon is said to have promised that the urgent needs Rwabalinda described would be evaluated in a detailed and concrete way once the secret telephone contact were established between him and Bizimungu.
Rwabalinda forwarded to his superiors the suggestion that a government spokesman who was up to the demands of the job be sent to Paris immediately. He reported that he had done his part to launch the media campaign by delivering some articles to one of his Rwandan colleagues there. Rwabalinda concluded his report with the suggestion that a visit at high political level would be a good idea to push for the desired assistance.
Assuming Rwabalinda reported the meeting accurately, Huchon and his aides were more concerned about the public perception of the killing than about the killing itself. The condition for important renewed French assistance was not to end the genocide but to make it more presentable in the international press.98
Some otherwise unidentified French generals did their part to improve the image of the interim goverment by depicting it as the victim of outside aggression. In early Mayjust about the same time when Rwabalinda was meeting with Huchonthey approached journalist Renaud Girard with private information about the presence of Ugandan batallions backing the RPF in its offensive on Kigali. Girard checked the information and found it to be false.99
The message about the need to improve the Rwandan image was also delivered in Rwanda. Two days after Rwabalinda wrote his report, RTLM told its listeners, please, no more cadavers on the roads.French Soldiers: A Private Initiative?
One of the needs mentioned by Rwabalinda was foreign soldiers, whether regulars or mercenaries, to serve as instructors. Captain Paul Barril, the former French policeman who had served as security consultant to Habyarimana, may have agreed to fill that need. Barril was reportedly linked to the French president directly as well as through Mitterrands confidant De Grossouvre, who committed suicide at the presidency on April 7 (see above). According to one press report, a high-ranking military officer was so suspicious of Barrils activities in Rwanda in 1993 that he questioned Mitterrand directly about them, fearing that the president might be compromised by what Barril was doing. Mitterrand reportedly replied that Barril had received no orders from him.100
Barril claims to have been present in Rwanda from the beginning of the genocide through to its end. He maintains that he was one of the last to leave Kigali before the RPF victory, taken out by helicopter. In fact, he was in Europe for at least part of the periodhe appeared on television at the end of June to describe his theory about how the RPF shot down Habyarimanas planebut he seems to have been in Kigali on April 6 or soon after. He provides no specifics of his activities but relates that the Rwandans were so panic-stricken by Habyarimanas death that they were running around like rabbits and that senior officers of the Rwandan army, notably General Bizimungu, needed to turn to him for advice. The situation was unimaginable, he says, explaining that this was deepest Africa.101 Barril declared that he acted on his own and did not have to await for agreement from the ministry of foreign affairs to intervene, yet he also claims that he resided at the French embassy during the time after April 12 when he was in Kigali.102 He says that he raised the flag over the embassy and that this pleased Rwandans who were waiting for the French to return.103
Rwandan military sources, assert that Barril was hired by the Rwandan Ministry of Defense to conduct a training program for 30 to 60 men, eventually to grow to 120, at Bigogwe military camp in the northwest. He was to provide training in marksmanship and infiltration tactics for an elite unit in preparation forattacks behind the RPF lines. The operation was code-named Operation Insecticide, meaning an operation to exterminate the inyenzi or cockroaches. In late April or early May, commanders of army and National Police units were ordered to recruit volunteers for the program. In June, Rwandan military officers decided to offer rewards to encourage participants in the training program to attack behind the RPF lines, which were vulnerable because stretched over a long distance. But the military situation changed too rapidly for them to put the decision into effect.104
According to Sébastien Ntahobari, then military attaché at the Rwandan embassy in Paris, Minister of Defense Bizimana transferred U.S.$1,200,000 from Nairobi to Paris in June 1994 and faxed Ntahobari to pay that sum to Barril for otherwise unspecified services and assistance. An assistant of Barril came to collect the money from the embassy.105
When asked about the training program in the course of an interview with a Human Rights Watch researcher, Barril denied knowledge of it and ended the conversation abruptly.106
UNAMIR, Rwandan army officers and RPF sources all reported seeing several white men in military uniform in Rwandaand not part of UNAMIRin early April and again after mid-May. Three or four French-speaking white men in military uniform ate at the Rwandan army officers mess for several days in April and then left Kigali by helicopter for the northwest. Two or three, who spoke French and carried a considerable amount of gear, were transported to Bigogwe by Rwandan army helicopter in mid-May. They engaged in conversation with a Rwandan army officer and indicated by their questions that they were not familiar with Rwanda. According to one witness, the pilot of the helicopter was white and French-speaking.107 At about this time, UNAMIR officers reported seeing whitesin military uniform driving rapidly through Kigali on two occasions.108 A Rwandan army officer and RPF sources both recall seeing one or more French-speaking soldiers at the Hotel Meridien in Gisenyi.109 Other testimony reports French-speaking soldiers in the southern part of the country at about this same time.110 When questioned about the reported presence of French-speaking soldiers in Rwanda at a time when regular troops were supposed to have left, one French officer replied that they were probably mercenaries.111 If that were the case, it leaves unresolved the further question of whether Captain Barril or any other private agent had formal or informal support from French authorities in providing mercenaries to the Rwandan government.
In mid-June, the French foreign minister announced that France would send troops to Rwanda to stop the massacres and to protect the populations threatened with extermination.112 At the time, French political leaders labored to convince press and public of the humanitarian nature of the operation and four years later they were still defending the reasons for undertaking it. Even those reportedly opposed to Operation Turquoise in 1994, such as then Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, responded angrily to criticism sparked by the National Assembly inquiry in 1998. Balladur insisted that France had sent its soldiers because it had a duty to try to save lives. He found it revolting that others who had done nothing brought charges against France, the only country in the world to have acted.113
Posturing and self-congratulation aside, Operation Turquoise did have another purpose besides saving lives: preventing a victory by the RPF. One observer reportsthat some military officers in Paris talked openly of breaking the back of the RPF.114 Others, like General Jean-Claude Lafourcade, commander of Operation Turquoise, spoke more discreetly of putting the Arusha Accords back into operation, meaning implementing an agreement which required the RPF to share power with other parties.115 The investigative commission of the National Assembly concluded that besides saving lives Operation Turquoise was meant to preserve the necessary conditions for a cease-fire and subsequent political negotiations, that is, territory and legitimacy for the interim government.116
Mitterrand, who apparently continued to play the major role in determining policy towards Rwanda throughout the months of the genocide, reportedly disavowed Habyarimanas successors by mid-June, calling them a bunch of killers.117 According to former minister Bernard Debré, Mitterrand held that these Rwandan leaders could no longer be supported and must be punished not only because there had been a genocide but also because his trust had been betrayed.118 Mitterrand remained convinced, however, that maintaining Hutu in power was the democratic thing to do. Whatever Mitterrands personal repugnance towards the bunch of killers, the French government had no immediate candidates to replace them. This, according to the commission, led France into the untenable situation of continuing to accept the legitimacy of the interim government, either not taking account of the reality of the genocide, or not analyzing the responsibilities of the interim government for it.119
The French may have been planning a military intervention as early as the first part of May when, according to Rwabalinda, General Huchon said that the militarycooperation service was preparing some way to help the Rwandan army. According to the Rwandan military attaché Ntahobari, the coded telephone discussed with Rwabalinda was meant to facilitate communications for Operation Turquoise which was being prepared, even at that time.120 Two or three weeks laterin late May or early Junethe French invited the U.S. to join a military operation in Rwanda, hoping to obtain at least air transport for the undertaking. The U.S. refuseda decision overshadowed by the ghost of Somalia, according to one Washington official. In addition to general concerns about becoming involved in an intractable conflict in Africa, the U.S. saw no interest in assisting the French to slow the advance of the RPF or to prop up the interim government. Policymakers in Washington, including those who did not favor the RPF, saw its victory as the most likely way to end the genocide.121
According to Gérard Prunier, who advised the Ministry of Defense on Operation Turquoise, Mitterrand was finally pushed into action in mid-June by the prospect that South Africaanother Anglo-Saxon countrymight intervene in Rwanda. Humanitarian and human rights organizations had also been attacking French policy in Rwanda with increasing vigor throughout the end of May and early June and officials were anxious to quiet this criticism and, if possible, restore French honor.122 While these considerations may have had their impact on thinking in Paris, the decision to act quickly in mid-June was more likely influenced by a serious deterioration in the position of Rwandan government forces. After a counter-offensive against the RPF failed in early June, the government army also lost the important town of Gitarama on June 13, leaving the way to the west largely free for further RPF advances. The government forces still held part of Kigali, but they were short on ammunitionapparently in part because officers in the northwestern town of Ruhengeri were hoarding their stock awaiting the French return in hopes of then launching an effective counterattack. General Bizimungu assessed the overall situation as hopeless and commented privately on June 17 that the government forces had lost the war.123
Mitterrand at first insisted that French troops must take control of all of Rwanda, a position he may have adopted under the influence of military officers like General Quesnot, who takes credit for persuading Mitterrand to intervene in the first place.124 But Prime Minister Balladur firmly opposed such a large undertaking and the two compromised on a less ambitious objective, apparently that of establishing French authority over the part of Rwanda still controlled by the Rwandan government forces.125 At the U.N., French diplomats who were trying to rally support for Operation Turquoise at first showed a map with a proposed zone of French control that would have encompassed all territory west of a line running from Ruhengeri in the north, southeast to Kigali, then southwest down to Butare. This area would have encompassed Gisenyi, where the interim government had taken refuge, as well as the larger northwestern region that was the home of Habyarimana and many of the leading officers of the Rwandan army. This zone, where the government forces had concentrated substantial troops and supplies, would have served as the best location from which to launch a counteroffensive. Some important actors at the U.N.including the U.S.expressed hesitations about French plans to move into an area that was so large and so likely to provoke confrontations with the RPF. Prunier and others voiced the same reservations in Paris.126
Proponents of an aggressive strategy thought it essential for French troops to arrive in Kigali. By establishing a French presence there, they could enable the interim government to hang on to control of some parts of the city and thus more credibly claim to still govern Rwanda. Given that Operation Turquoise was supposedly a humanitarian operation, some French officials expected to find support for their position with humanitarian activists. The activist and politician Bernard Kouchner was one who had become known for his efforts to save lives. The RPF had solicited his aid in arranging for the evacuation of orphans and others besieged in Kigali and the U.N. secretary-general had given him an informal mandate to support his activities. Kouchner was ready to argue the case for sending French troops to the capital. On June 17, he and a French colleague visited General Dallaire in Kigali. According to one person present at the interview, the two Frenchvisitors brought with them a map marked with a line to delineate the zone that might come under French control. Like the map shown by French representatives at the U.N., it included most of western Rwanda and parts of the city of Kigali. Kouchner reportedly urged Dallaire to ask for French troops to rescue orphans and missionaries trapped behind Interahamwe lines in the capital. Such a plea by Dallaire might have persuaded sceptics at the U.N. or in Paris to agree to sending French forces to Kigali. Dallaire, suspicious of French intentions, responded, Hell, no. I dont want to see any French around here. If you want to help, provide the troops waiting to join UNAMIR with the transport and equipment they need.127 Kouchner confirms having made the visit and having brought along a map, which he remembers showing sites in Kigali where Tutsi or others were awaiting rescue. He recalls that he was given the map by officials in Paris, but not by whom.128 With no appeal forthcoming from Dallaire, proponents of a relatively limited operation influenced the plan adopted. Prime Minister Balladur set a number of conditions for the undertaking, one of which was that it was to be based largely outside Rwandain effect in Zairewith its troops making forays into Rwanda to assess the situation and to rescue people as needed.129
François Léotard, minister of defense in 1994, declared at the National Assembly hearings that orders for Operation Turquoise prohibited French soldiers from making hostile military contact with the RPF.130 At least one set of orders, those issued June 22, 1994, do not prohibit engaging in combat with the RPF. Leaving vague the actions to be undertaken, they focus on shaping how those actions might be interpreted:
Adopt an attitude of strict neutrality to the different parties to the conflict. Insist on the idea that the French army has come to stop the massacres and notto fight the RPF or to support the FAR so that the actions undertaken not be interpreted as aiding the government troops.131
In explaining the context of the operation, the orders echoed the language of the interim government. They described very serious ethnic clashes and never mentioned the word genocide which had been used by Foreign Minister Juppé and other civilian officials more than a month before. They devote three paragraphs to recounting the RPF military advance and only then turn to the slaughter of Tutsi, which is laid to groups of uncontrolled Hutu civilians and soldiers. The orders state that the RPF seems to have also engaged in little known summary executions and ethnic cleansing and that several hundred thousand persons of the Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups have been exterminated. By citing the Hutu first, they suggest that as many Hutu as Tutsi have been killedor perhaps, even more.132 Given that the mission of the troops was to stop the massacres, using force if necessary, the identification of Hutu as victims and the RPF as killers implied that soldiers could well be drawn into fighting the RPF.
When plans for the operation were discussed, Prunier had argued for sending troops into southwestern Rwanda at Cyangugu. From there, they could move quickly to rescue Tutsi at Nyarushishi, which would produce excellent publicity for the operation and firmly establish its humanitarian character. He had pointed out that sending troops into Rwanda at Gisenyi in the northwest might raise questions about the professed goal of saving lives since there were virtually no Tutsi left to save in that region. According to Prunier, Léotard was convinced by his logic and ordered the operation to proceed through Cyangugu. The military commanders also appeared to have accepted Pruniers reasoning: they ordered the troops to first assure protection for the Nyarushishi camp to demonstrate the humanitarian character of the operation. Only after that were they to extend their area of control progressively over Hutu country and to move out from southwestern Rwanda towards Gisenyi in the northwest, towards Butare due east, and even in the direction of Kigali.133 As the French commanders must have known, their troops could not progress too far in those directions without encountering the RPF.
According to press accounts, the soldiers themselves believed that they were supposed to fight against the RPF. One officer stated, At that time, the orders were very clear: it was planned to go as far as Kigali.134 The soldiers were drawn from the elite of the reconnaissance and rapid reaction units. They included nearly 300 soldiers of the French special forces, more than had been deployed in any previous French operation.135 Some, including several of the commanding officers, had previously served in Rwanda where their task had been to support the Rwandan troops in fighting the RPF, and for many of them the RPF had become their enemy as well. They had resented being withdrawn the year before in a move which had seemed to hand the RPF a victory and they were ready to kick butt according to one U.S. military officer who talked frequently with several of them.136 The soldiers were well equipped to do just that with more than one hundred armored vehicles, a battery of 120mm. mortars, ten helicopters, four ground-attack jet planes and four reconnaissance jet planes. Amply supplied with heavy weaponry, the force lacked the ordinary vehicles, like trucks, needed to pick up civilians and ferry them to safety.137
The French authorities had initially hoped for some kind of international intervention, but in the end found only the Senegalese willing to send soldiers for the operation. They asked the Security Council for a Chapter VII mandate to cover Operation Turquoise, thus following the course suggested by the secretary-general on April 29. With the difficulties that the U.N. was experiencing in organizing UNAMIR II, it would have been difficult for the Security Council to refuse the request. When the French authorities decided to move, they wanted immediate action, probably because they feared the Rwandan government forces were so close to defeat. They were ready to send troops without a resolution and on the basis ofless formal cover, if the secretary-general agreed.138 The French government did not even wait for the Security Council decision and landed its troops in Goma, which was to serve as the rear-base of the operation, hours before the council, with five abstentions, voted the mandate for Operation Turquoise.139
As planned, one detachment of troops entered Rwanda in the southwest and went directly to Nyarushishi. They were accompanied by the expected entourage of journalists who published the desired favorable reports about the rescue operation. Col. Didier Thibault was in command. According to Prunier, Thibault was a false name being used by Col. Didier Tauzin, who had previously served as an adviser to the Rwandan army. The investigative commission identified Tauzin as head of the French operation that had helped the Rwandan forces spectacularly save the situation in turning back the RPF offensive in February 1993.140 With much fanfare, Colonel Thibault and his men ordered militia to dismantle their barriers. One French officer confiscated a grenade from a militia member and gave him a reproving lecture before the journalists.141
At the very same time, and with virtually no attention from the foreign press, another detachment of 200 elite troops crossed into northwestern Rwanda at Gisenyi and began carrying out reconnaisance in the region.142 Their arrival in Gisenyi was hailed gleefully by announcers on RTLM and Radio Rwanda.143 Perhaps the only foreign reporter to cover the story wrote that French troops in the northwest were discreet. Unlike their fellows to the south, they did not interferewith the militia at the barriers. Within the next day or two, they brought important quantities of equipment and supplies from Goma and set up camps in Gisenyi, ready to protect the town that housed the genocidal government.144 The troops then moved east some fifteen miles to Mukamira, a military camp where the French had once trained Rwandan soldiers. There they were near Bigogwe, where Barril was supposedly carrying on a training program and well positioned to advance the twelve or so miles to the town of Ruhengeri, which was then besieged by the RPF. On June 24, Colonel Thibault said that the French were considering moving on to Ruhengeri.145
In a briefing in Paris on June 23 military spokesmen said that a small detachment had crossed the border to Gisenyi and that a larger force would arrive there subsequently. When questioned in Paris about the deployment two days later, however, Gen. Raymond Germanos, deputy chief of staff of the army, reportedly declared that a first contingent of thirty had crossed into northwestern Rwanda only at noon that day, June 25. It seems unlikely that General Germanos, identified as the officer in charge of the operation, did not know of the earlier deployment.146 Perhaps he was simply distinguishing between information relating to humanitarian concerns and that dealing with military secrets, a practice recommended in a confidential, official document about Operation Turquoise.147 The inaccurate information delivered by General Germanos and the absence of discussion about the deployment in the northwest at the time and sinceincluding in the report of the investigative commissionsuggest that it was part of the military secrets of Operation Turquoise.148
The French commanders ordered their troops to encourage local civilian and military officials to reestablish their authority, persisting in their view that the genocide resulted from governmental failure rather than governmental success.149 The French soldiers followed orders. Even in regions where they dismantled barriers and chased away militia, they took no action against local authorities. They worked every day with Prefects Kayishema and Bagambiki and many of their subordinates, even though well aware of the evidence against them. Colonel Thibault described the Rwandan government and army as legal organisations, meanwhile admitting that some of their officials might have blood on their hands.150 He declared that he had no mandate to replace these people and that the legitimacy of this government is not my problem.151 Thibaults opinions reflected those held at the highest levels of the French government. When questioned at the Presidency in early July, Bruno Delaye, the African adviser to Mitterrand, defended French collaboration with local authorities. He said that France had no choice but to continue relying on them because it lacked the personnel to replace them.152
Rwandan authorities at first believed that Operation Turquoise was the rescue mission promised by Huchon and they immediately became more assertive towards the RPF and towards UNAMIR.153 Once French troops landed in Gisenyi and moved towards Ruhengeri, General Bizimunguconvinced a week before that the war was lostdeclared that his forces would soon be launching an offensive against the RPF.154 Ordinary people too anticipated French support and welcomed the troops with cheers, flowers, and banners. At one barrier a member of the Interahamwe sporting a straw hat painted to resemble the tricolour, posed for thecamera with his weaponsbows and arrows, a spear, and a machetein front of a sign that read, Vive La France.155 The prefect of Gikongoro assured a warm welcome by having residents of the prefectural center gather to rehearse their spontaneous cheers and in Gisenyi authorities deployed entire schools of children to wave little French flags.156
As the dismantling of barriers in Cyangugu became known, some militia and government officials expressed anger and disappointment at the French. RTLM announcer Valerie Bemeriki sought to prevent any further erosion in relations between the interim government and the foreign troops. She urged listeners to make special efforts to seek out the French soldiers, to sing and dance for them, drink with them, invite them for dinner, and serve as guides when they went out in their cars. All these occasions should be used, she advised, to explain to them the problem of Hutu and Tutsi and the wickedness of the Inyenzi and their supporters.157 Announcer Gaspard Gahigi harangued the French about not interfering with roadblocks and directed officials to prepare people at the barriers with appropriate responses should the French ask what they were doing.158
Several days after arriving in Cyangugu, Colonel Thibault and some of his troops moved further east to establish a base at the town of Gikongoro. There they took no action against militia and did not react to civilians carrying grenades. Asked why, Thibault reportedly answered that the French army has no authority to disarm the militia or dismantle the road-blocks even though they are a threat to civilian lives.159 French soldiers did confiscate a limited number of weapons from militia on an empirical basis according to a later statement by Colonel Thibaut. They reportedly collected about one hundred firearms Gikongoro and another one hundred in Kibuye. In some regions, the French soldiers permitted civilians to retain their arms if the local administrators indicated this was necessary to assureusual police missions.160 It is unclear why the French soldiers were ready to dismantle barriers and collect grenades in Cyangugu and not in Gisenyi or Gikongoro. Perhaps after having established the humanitarian nature of the operation in the first few days, they believed that it was no longer necessary to impress journalists. Perhaps as criticism by interim authorities grew, they wished to minimize any cause of conflict with them.161 Or perhaps, as an official telegram reported in early July, they feared provoking a general reaction against their troops by militia or government forces.162 In Paris as well as in the region, high-ranking officers expressed this concern just as others in New York and elsewhere had previously voiced anxiety over the risk of injury to UNAMIR soldiers.163
The readiness of French soldiers to be swayed by local authorities accounts in part for their slowness in rescuing Tutsi at Bisesero, an incident that came to symbolize French indifference to the genocide. On June 26, journalist Sam Kiley informed French soldiers that Tutsi were being attacked nightly at Bisesero, the site of long-standing resistance described above. He showed them on a map exactly where the Tutsi were located, only a few miles distant from a French camp.164 The commanding officer, Capt. Marin Gillier, sent a small patrol in that direction the next day. According to Tutsi survivors, they spoke with these soldiers who promised to return in three days. The Tutsi relate that the soldiers were accompanied by local authorities and that by having come out to speak with the French, they exposed themselves to an attack soon after that killed many of theirnumber.165 According to Gilliers account, the patrol found no Tutsi but were told by local authorities that RPF infiltrators had penetrated the region and were threatening them.166 French soldiers had observed weapons fire on at least one occasion at Bisesero and Gillier knew, as he told reporters, that people were being killed every night. But he remarked that he did not want to get involved in politics and declined to say who were the victims and who the killers.167
Gillier requested permission on June 27 and again on June 28 to investigate the situation in Bisesero. He received no response and hesitated to move on his own authority, he later explained, because his forcesaccording to the press nearly seventy elite French troopsmight be put at risk.168 The general staff of the operation, presumably referring to information Gillier had received from local authorities, told journalists that as many as one to two thousand well-armed RPF soldiers might have penetrated the government lines and infiltrated to the banks of Lake Kivu.169 Remarkably enough, elite reconnaisance troops, equipped with such equipment as night-vision goggles, had found no evidence of infiltration and the commanding officers of the operation, with numerous sophisticated helicopters and airplanes at their disposition, apparently ordered no aerial reconnaissance to discover whether any RPF troops were actually in the area.
On June 29, Defense Minister François Léotard came to the French post near Bisesero on an inspection visit. Gillier briefed him on the situation, including the possibility that there were Tutsi needing rescue in the area. According to New York Times correspondent Raymond Bonner, who interviewed soldiers on the spot, Léotard rejected any operation to evacuate or protect the embattled Tutsi at Bisesero, saying that the French did not have enough troops to protect everyone. A French journalist, however, reported that as Léotard was leaving, he turned backunder the persistent questioning of the New York Times correspondent and ordered that troops be sent the next day. This account does not indicate where the soldiers were to be sent. Gillier later reported that their objective was to offer evacuation to a French priest at a church beyond Bisesero. He described locating the endangered Tutsi as an accident, the result of a chance sighting by some of his soldiers. Once he and most of his troops arrived at the church on June 30, he received a radio message from another part of the group who had turned back after having seen some people different from those we had encountered since our arrival. They had discovered the Tutsi and called for urgent help.170
When Gillier and the rest of his force reached the site, they had no trouble seeing who were the killers and who the victims. A band of armed assailants had gathered on a nearby hill as the ragged, starving and wounded Tutsi survivors emerged from the bushes and caves. Confronted finally with the reality of the genocide, these French troops provided protection, food and medical help to the Tutsi survivors. Some 300 of the 800 who straggled out of the bush needed medical attention, about one hundred of them urgently so.171
The next morning, the soldiers walked through Bisesero valley, which had been inaccessible to their vehicles, and discovered hundreds of bodies, many of persons recently slain. It was, Gillier reported, intolerable.172 He urged a television cameraman to film the corpses, saying People must see this.173 The soldiers discovered no weapons or other evidence that the Tutsi were RPF infiltrators, leading Sgt. Maj. Thierry Prungnaud to complain, We were manipulated. We thought the Hutu were the good guys and the victims.174 Someof the soldiers who had been pleased at first by the warm welcome from militia now rejected their professions of friendship. As one said, Ive had enough of being cheered by murderers.175 One French officer who had instructed soldiers of the Presidential Guard broke down and cried so moved was he at the crimes that might have been committed by men whom he had trained.176 The commander of Operation Turquoise, General Lafourcade, declared that Rwandan officials had engaged in a deception to keep the French from intervening at Bisesero.177
Recognizing the crimes and deceptions of the genocidal authorities, however, did not make French military officers any more conciliatory towards the RPF. Seeing the government defense of Kigali crumbling before a persistent RPF attack, military experts in Paris predicted a catastrophe if the RPF were to win a total victory.178 On June 30, General Germanos ordered French soldiers in the north to maintain their forward position at Mukamira, some ten or twelve miles from the front at Ruhengeri, and directed those in the south to make forays as necessary to evacuate persons at risk in Butare.179 A small French plane and a helicopter went to Butare on July 1 and returned the next day with some clergy, including the Bishop of Butare, and some faculty from the university.180 During a second mission on July 3, described above, the French troops were fired on by the RPF. The next day, at noon, French troops at Gikongoro were ordered to hold the line against any RPF advance. They dug in, some of them at least seeming to anticipate combat with some relish. Colonel Thibault reportedly declared that if the RPF challengedthe line in the sand drawn by the French, we will open fire against them without any hesitation...and we have the means.181
Rwandan authorities at both local and national levels did their best to incite the French to open conflict with the RPF. Callixte Kalimanzira of the Interior Ministry asked the interim government to appeal urgently to the French to protect the innocent people threatened by the Inkotanyi in Butare prefecture.182 The prefect of Cyangugu insisted that the French must go into the RPF area and free our civilian population taken as hostages by the rebels, a desire expressed also by the prefects of Butare and Ruhengeri.183 Foreign Minister Bicamumpaka appealed to France to order its troops to stop the RPF advance and to intervene between the two sides.184 The head of the Interahamwe, Robert Kajuga, assured a journalist that he was not concerned about the approaching RPF troops. France is a great power, like America or England. They can stop the war.185 Radio Rwanda and RTLM alternately pleaded with the French to come to Kigali and promised that they were sure to do so.186
On July 6, the French and the RPF decided not to make war.187 Several days earlier, the French government announced that its forces would stay in Rwanda only if the Security Council authorized the creation of a secure humanitarian zone to ensure that the people are safe from any threat from any side, accordingto Juppé.188 The Security Council never authorized or approved the zone, but did acknowledge what amounted to a unilateral extension of the French mandate. The zone encompassed the southwestern quadrant of the country but did not include any of the northwest, nor did it reach to Kigali. French withdrawal from Gisenyi took place unheralded, presumably on or about July 5, and left the interim government and its troops without foreign protection in the northwest. French authorities thus signaled their readiness to stand aside for an RPF advance almost certain to result in the total victory that they had deplored just days before. In all likelihood, the withdrawal and the acceptance that it symbolized constituted part of an unpublicized agreement which ended the confrontation with the RPF.
Obviously distressed at the change in French policy, the interim authorities began to realize that the best they could hope for was passive protection rather than a more aggressive defense.189 Ferdinand Nahimana, counselor at the Presidency, at first criticized the French bitterly for establishing an Indian reservation, and then tried to persuade them to extend the zone at least to cover all the territory still more or less controlled by the Rwandan army.190 Interim Prime Minister Kambanda and Interim President Sindikubwabo each made the same request formally to their French counterparts several days later, Sindikubwabo stressing the need to save nearly four million people threatened by massacres by the RPF.191
Once the French backed off from combat with the RPF, the French representative at Goma, Yannick Gérard, deputy director of African and Malagasay Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, advocated severing links clearly and publicly with the interim government. He pointed out that Washington was preparing to do so and advised Paris:
Their collective responsibility in calls to murder over Radio Mille Collines during these months seems to me well established. Members of this government cannot in any case, be considered valid interlocutors for a politicalsettlement. Their usefulness lay in facilitating the good operation of Operation Turquoise. Now they will only try to complicate our task.192
Gérard wrote the next day that further contact with the discredited authorities would be useless and even harmful. He concluded, We have nothing more to say to them, except to get lost as fast as possible.193
Administrative officials, members of militia and Rwandan army soldiers flooded into the secure zone along with ordinary civilians who feared the RPF advance. At this time, both officials and RTLM were ordering people to flee and warning that the RPF would surely kill them if they did not. The French joined in such warnings, telling people in Butare to flee west to Gikongoro and later warning people in Cyangugu to seek refuge across the border in Zaire.194 On July 11, the commanding officer of Operation Turquoise reportedly stated that officials of the interim government could seek asylum in the zone if the RPF took Gisenyi.195 Three days later, the Foreign Ministry in Paris countermanded the invitation and asked its local representative to inform Rwandan authorities that they were not welcome.196 General Lafourcade informed Gérard on July 15, however, that several important figures of the interim governmentthey turned out to be the interim prime minister and interim presidentwere in Cyangugu and reconstituting their government. The ambassador immediately notified Paris:
Since we consider their presence undesirable in the secure humanitarian zone and knowing as we do that the authorities bear a heavy responsibility for the genocide, we have no other choice, whatever the difficulties, but arrestingthem or putting them immediately under house arrest until a competent international judicial authority decides their case.197
The question of arrests involved also the numerous local authorities with whom the French had been collaborating, including the prefects of Kibuye and Cyangugu. As of July 10, French officers had compiled detailed information about their responsibilities in the genocide, which they had presumably communicated promptly to Paris.198
Gérards insistence that the interim authorities be arrested seemed to accord with the position taken by Foreign Minister Juppé three weeks before when he wrote that France will make no accomodation with the killers and their commanders...[and] demands that those responsible for these genocides be judged.199 At the Presidency, however, Bruno Delaye insisted that arresting those accused of genocide did not fall within the French mandate. On July 16, the Foreign Ministry bowed to this view. In an uncanny echo of the pretexts used to explain U.N. failure to act, it declared that our mandate does not authorize us to arrest them on our own authority. Such a task could undermine our neutrality, the best guarantee of our effectiveness.200 The French government could have requested that the mandate be changed or could have unilaterally redefined the mandate, as it had in effect done by creating the secure humanitarian zone. Instead the French government, like the U.N., hid behind the cover of legal technicalities. After all the important authorities had left the zone, the French arrested a small number of persons who had not held government posts. In one case, they arrested nine persons accused of genocide, but failed to transfer them, as had been promised, to U.N. custody.201
When the French government declared that it would not arrest genocidal leaders, it was criticized at the U.N. and elsewhere for protecting persons guilty ofgenocide.202 To end these criticisms and to avoid embarassment should the newly established Kigali government ask for these persons to be handed over to them, French authorities wanted them to leave the zone quickly. General Lafourcade maintains that once the Rwandan authorities understood that they were unwelcome, they left the zone on their own initiative and without French assistance.203 A French military journal reported in October 1994, however, that the tactical general staff initiated and organized the evacuation of the transitional government to Zaire on July 17.204 The report of the investigative commission confirms that French troops evacuated former prime minister Dismas Nsengiyaremye, who was to be part of the transitional government, from Cyangugu by air on July 17.205 No charges had been made against Nsengiyaremye, but others who were supposed to serve in the transitional government were at the time serving as ministers in the interim government and were apparently implicated in the genocide: Minister of Defense Augustin Bizimana, Minister of Family and Womens Affairs Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, Minister of Planning André Ntagerura, and Minister of Commerce Justin Mugenzi. Ferdinand Nahimana, who was to serve as minister of higher education in the transitional government, had directed activities at RTLM and was an adviser to the presidency. Official French sources have not indicated if any of these five were part of the transitional government members who benefited from French assistance in leaving Rwanda on or about July 17.
After local officials most implicated in the genocide fled into exile, French soldiers kept the administration functioning through their own efforts and those of Rwandans whom they selected on the spot.206 Presumably they could have achieved the same results several weeks before at a time when Delaye and others had asserted it was impossible for the French to replace local officials.
When French authorities decided to sever ties with the interim government, they continued to hope that some military officers could serve as valid representatives of the Hutu force that they wished to support. In a telegram of July 7, Gérard commented on the continuing authority of General Bizimungu. Expressing a wish that sounds almost like a directive, he wrote:
...it would be very desirable for the chief of staff of the FAR to dissociate himself very quickly politically from the Gisenyi authorities in order to strengthen his position as an interlocutor and negotiator.207
Bizimungu did not disavow the genocide, but other officers did, as discussed below. French soldiers evacuated at least some of those officers, perhaps hoping one of them would take the leadership role they had wanted Bizimungu to play.208 Journalist Sam Kiley charged that French soldiers who arrived in Butare on July 1 also evacuated Colonel Bagosora, flying him out on July 2 along with a small number of other persons. Kileys source was a high-ranking French officer who knew Bagosora well and who had reason to be well-informed about the details of the operation.209 If the French did indeed provide this service for Bagosora, it was a mark of surprising consideration for a man who was characterized as filth by a French officer who dealt with him regularly.210
The French authorities permitted Rwandan soldiers to remain in and to transit through the secure zone without hindrance. In most circumstances they did not disarm them and in some cases, they assisted them on their way. One foreign soldier witnessed French soldiers refueling Rwandan army trucks before they departed for Zaire with their loads of goods looted from local homes and businesses. In Zaire, French soldiers drove their Rwandan colleagues around in official vehicles and, according to the report of the investigative commission,French soldiers delivered ten tons of food to Rwandan troops at Goma on July 21, 1994.211
In the first days of the operation, the French authorities showed little interest in blocking RTLM or Radio Rwanda, but once those stations began propaganda hostile to the French forces, France announced at the U.N. that it would do everything possible to silence them. French officers made contact with the broadcasters of Radio Rwanda, who were operating in the secure humanitarian zone, and quickly obliged them to change the tone of their comments. When Bruno Delaye was asked to end broadcasts of RTLM, he said that the mandate did not cover such an operation and that, in any case, French forces had been unable to find its transmitters. But within days of beginning work on the problem, French agents were also able to locate some of the relay stations used by RTLM and to destroy them.212
Once the staunchest supporter of the interim government, France finally provided the resources that saved a substantial number of its intended victims. As the RPF advanced in June, killers hurried to finish their work. The RPF managed to save thousands as it moved forward, but could not have reached the southwest and west quickly enough to save the groups of Tutsi already exhausted by months of attack, hunger and flight, who were hidden on mountain tops or in river valleys. The thousands who were confined at Nyarushishi were safe only because the local National Police commander, Lieutenant Colonel Bavugamenshi, insisted on protecting them. Had he been removed, they too would have faced attack and possible extermination before the RPF could have reached them.213 To all those people, the French soldiers who came to their rescue were saviors, regardless of what had moved officials in Paris to send them to Rwanda.
According to French estimates, their 2,500 elite soldiers, equipped with the best equipment available, saved some 8,000 to 10,000 people at Nyarushishi, another 1,100 at Bisesero and another 6,000 in Gikongoro, a total of approximately15,000 to 17,000 people.214 UNAMIR, with its barely 500 men, poorly armed and equipped, protected at one time nearly twice that number. Like members of the U.N., the French could and did save lives when it suited their interests. And, when it did not, they too hid behind excuses of insufficient troops and concerns for their safety or they used a supposed commitment to adhering to the mandate or to preserving neutrality as pretexts for inaction.The Kigeme Declaration and the End to Legitimacy
Among those who profited from the security provided by the French were some of the military officers who had signed the original call for an end to violence on April 12. After that one effort, they had been disheartened and intimidated. They may have continued to dissent privately, but they took no further public position against the slaughter.
They came together once more within the secure zone under the leadership of Gatsinzi and Rusatira. At Kigeme on July 6three months after the start of the slaughterthey signed a statement committing themselves to fighting the genocide which they denounced and condemned with all their strength. They deplored the elimination of Rwandans because of their political beliefs.They denounced a government that had reduced its people to silence by terror and the group of extremists who had ruled by intimidation. They urged a cease-fire and negotiations with the RPF.215
Had these high-ranking and respected officers issued such a statement in early April, they might have inspired others to join them in challenging the organizers of the killing campaign. They lacked the courage to take such a stand as well as the troops and equipment to back it up. Had the international community provided a counterweight to the Presidential Guard and its allies, had it taken a united and uncompromising standwith the threat of the refusal of any future funding for the interim governmentor had it silenced RTLM, these officers could have drawn on these sources of support to sustain their own efforts and to persuade others to join them.
At the time of the Kigeme Declaration and shortly after, foreignersand not only the Frenchwere still treating the Rwandan authorities as legitimate. But with the Rwandan army defeated and the interim government in flight, the international community finally recognized it for what it had always beena band of killers. InWashington, the U.S. government ordered the Rwandan embassy closed and its assets frozen on July 15. Clinton said that the U.S. could not allow representatives of a regime that supports genocidal massacres to remain on our soil, as if officials had just discovered that they were there or had just learned that the regime they represented was carrying out genocide.216 The U.S. announced also that it would begin efforts to remove the Rwandan representative from the Security Council. Soon after, the Security Council, as if newly awakened to its power to control its own procedure, decided that Rwanda would not take its scheduled turn as president of the council. Decided on August 25, the measure came so late that it applied, ironically, to the government that ended the genocide rather than the one that perpetrated it.217
Had the international community denied the legitimacy of the interim government in the early stages of the genocide, some of the hesitantlike the officers at Kigememight have found the resolve to confront the organizers of the killing campaign. One former Rwandan army officer deplored his own lack of courage and that of other Rwandans who, in fear for their own lives, failed to oppose the interim authorities. He remarked, We now must have the courage to pay the price of our cowardice. The same holds true for those international leaders who, secure in their distant offices, could have intervenedat no risk to their livesand yet did not.