Book. In March 2021, historian Vincent Duclert presented Emmanuel Macron with a report on France’s role in Rwanda from 1990 to 1994. This 1,200-page document, established thanks to unprecedented access to state archives, concluded to “a set of heavy and overwhelming responsibilities” of the French authorities in the genocide of the Tutsi, which left nearly a million dead in 1994. It showed a political, military and diplomatic shipwreck. It also revealed an ideological blindness of François Mitterrand and his advisors, imposed on the rest of the state apparatus.

This report, which contributed to reconciling France and Rwanda after strong diplomatic tensions, freed people to speak and several works were published in the process. As Rwanda prepares to organize, from April 7, the 30th anniversary of the Tutsi genocide, Vincent Duclert is publishing a new work which is a continuation of the previous one. In France facing the Tutsi genocide. The great scandal of the Fifth Republic (Tallandier, 640 pages, 25.50 euros), he deciphers the mechanisms that led to the tragedy of spring 1994. “I decided to write this book as soon as the report was published, because it There was a considerable mass of archives which had been released, but which deserved further investigation, he explains. I was also aware that the document drawn up by the commission I chaired was perhaps too voluminous to be affordable. The general public needs to know what happened during those years. »

Based on the archives − the report was based on nearly 8,000 documents, handwritten notes, diplomatic telegrams, analyzes by advisors, etc. −, Vincent Duclert intends to shed light on what he considers to be “the unthinkable” , namely how the French authorities engaged “in an unconditional alliance with an authoritarian regime [that of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana], ethnic and racist, whose most radical elements prepared in Africa the last genocide of the 20th century.” The unthinkable is also to have, at the highest summit of the State, ignored all the alerts launched by NGOs, diplomats like Antoine Anfré, vice-consul of France in Uganda (1987-1991) today now French ambassador in Kigali, or officers like General Jean Varret, head of the military cooperation mission until 1993.

The mystery of the outbreak of the genocide

These signals announced the drift of Hutu extremists and their desire to exterminate the Tutsi minority well before April 7, 1994, which marked the start of the mass massacres. “The term genocide was used by the French ambassador as early as October 1990. It was used several times in notes, reports and investigations by French agents or independent observers,” recalls Vincent Duclert. In France, ministers and their cabinets could not ignore them… There is therefore a major compromise of presidential institutions. » The commission of historians set up by Emmanuel Macron, which did not claim legal expertise, did not however retain the notion of complicity of the French authorities. So how can we explain “the unthinkable”, thirty years after the fact? “It’s for reasons of state. This allows us to silence all criticism,” says Mr. Duclert.

If the report looked at the role of France from 1990, the start of the “Noroît” military operation, to June 1994, the end of the “Turquoise” operation, this work also revisits the postcolonial period of Rwanda. “We see that France’s interest in this country appears at the time of independence, with the support of General de Gaulle for the entry of Rwanda and Burundi into the United Nations,” assures Vincent Duclert. Several economic, cultural and then military agreements were signed. From 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front [RPF, a political-military movement formed by Tutsi refugees in Uganda] was perceived as an enemy. So much so that France prefers to support the violent dictatorship of Juvénal Habyarimana. »

If the work is enriched with new testimonies and analyses, it does not unravel all the mysteries surrounding the genocide, in particular its outbreak: the attack on President Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, 1994. Who were the sponsors? Who made up the commando that launched the two SAM-16 missiles against the presidential Falcon? Why were French gendarmes Alain Didot and René Maïer murdered in the hours that followed? “It is true that material evidence is lacking, but there is still a body of evidence that overwhelms the Hutu extremists,” replies Vincent Duclert. By signing the Arusha Accords [signed in Tanzania between the Rwandan state and the RPF], the president became an obstacle for the radical branch. The elements revealed by Judge Trévidic’s investigation and the DGSE at the time tend to prove that the [Rwandan] presidential guard was indeed at the origin of the attack. But it is true that the question of a commando formed by foreign mercenaries remains raised. »