France is expected to make public about 8,000 archive documents including some that were previously classified starting Wednesday, the day when Rwanda will start the 27th commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
The archives were examined, for about two years, by a commission of experts led by historian Vincent Duclert – tasked with consulting all France’s archives relating to the Genocide in order to analyse the role and engagement of France from 1990 to 1994.
The commission was formed by French President Emmanuel Macron in April 2019 and submitted their report late last month in which they said that France had an “overwhelming responsibility in the Genocide.
Duclert said documents – mostly from the French presidency and the prime minister’s office – show how then-President Francois Mitterrand and the small group of diplomats and military officials surrounding him shared views inherited from colonial times, including the desire to maintain influence over a French-speaking country.
That, he said, led them to keep supporting the then Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana despite warning signs, including through delivery of weapons and military training in the years prior to the Genocide.
Naphtal Ahishakiye, the Executive Secretary of Ibuka – the umbrella organisation for survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi told The New Times that that making Genocide archives accessible to the public is useful.
“When documents containing actual information on the Genocide are exposed either by countries or individuals, it shows solidarity of people around the world in revealing the truth about the Genocide,” he said adding that it also helps tackle its ideology, trivialisation and denial.
The Genocide against Tutsi in 1994 is considered one of the most gruesome atrocities of the 20th century as it claimed lives of more than a million people in just 100 days, according to estimates from the National Commission for the Fight against the Genocide.
Meanwhile, the Duclert Commission’s 1,200-page report, among others, concludes that France bears heavy and overwhelming responsibilities over Genocide but makes no mention of any evidence of French complicity.
Though the report indicated that nothing in the archives consulted proves France’s complicity, it noted that for a long time France was involved with a regime that encouraged racist massacres, and was “blind” to the preparations of the massacres.
Macron said in a statement that the report marks “a major step forward” toward understanding France’s actions in Rwanda.
On Friday, March 26, the Government of Rwanda said in a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that it welcomed the report of the Duclert Commission, which represents an important step towards a common understanding of France’s role in the Genocide.
According to experts, Macron’s decision to commission the report – and open the archives to the public – are part of his efforts to fully confront the French role in the Genocide and to improve relations with Rwanda, including designating April 7, the day the massacre began, a day of commemoration.