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01 December, 2016

Rwanda opens probe into French role in genocide

Rwanda has opened a formal investigation into the alleged role of 20 French officials in the 1994 genocide

The Rwandan government accuses France of complicity in the genocide. The French officials are accused of supporting the Hutu nationalist government, which carried out the mass killing of an estimated 500,000 to 1,000,000 Rwandans, mainly from the Tutsi ethnic group. Paris denies the allegation.

"The inquiry, for now, is focused on 20 individuals whom, according to information gathered so far, are required by the prosecution authority to explain or provide clarity on allegations against them," said Rwanda's prosecutor general Richard Muhumuza. He added that the probe would enable prosecutors to decide "whether the concerned individuals should be formally charged or not."

Muhumuza said that he had contacted the French government and that full cooperation was expected.

The Rwandan genocide began following the shooting down of a plane carrying former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana on April 6, 1994. Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira was also killed in the plane crash. They were both ethnic Hutus. After the crash, Hutus who were in majority, were incited to commit acts of ethnic violence against Tutsis.

France's Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on November 16 that it was "a disgraceful lie" to say that the French army took park in genocide. Relations between the two countries have gone through ups and downs since the genocide. In 2014, Rwandan President Paul Kagame repeated accusations that French troops were both accomplices and "actors" in the massacre.

In October, Paris re-launched an inquiry into the shooting down of Habyarimana's plane to hear testimony from a former general who accuses Kagame of being behind the attack. The Rwandan government has rejected the claims, saying it is an attempt by France to cover up its role in the genocide.

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