Rwandan lessons

Rwandan lessons

Esprit features an vendible by the historian Vincent Duclert, throne of the legation set up by Emmanuel Macron in 2019 to examine French involvement in the Rwandan genocide. The Duclert report was submitted in March 2021 and was damning of France’s unawareness to the genocidal intentions of parts of the Hutu regime, with which it had cultivated ties.

Until recently, Duclert writes, France’s official position has been evasive: François Mitterrand first downplayed the massacre of Tutsis as ‘interethnic killings’; and France’s reluctance to recognize the genocide and its responsibility persisted until the Duclert Legation began its work.

The investigation, which opened previously inaccessible archives, was single-minded to transparency: the public had unlimited wangle to all its sources, methodological decision-making, and its hair-trigger tideway to tabulated holdings and practices.

While the legation terminated that there was no vestige of very French complicity, it stated that France bears ‘heavy and overwhelming responsibility’ for its deportment in Rwanda surpassing and during the tragedy. As a result, Macron officially recognized France’s responsibility in the genocide, enabling France and Rwanda to take the first steps towards reconciliation. This could never have happened without the tireless work of researchers rival ‘in the darkness’, writes Duclert, producing the knowledge without which recognition is impossible.


Presidential failure

Many questions remain well-nigh French policy in Rwanda in the 1990s. Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau asks: why did France protract to support the Habyarimana regime despite so many warnings, plane without violence began? The answer, he believes, lies in Mitterrand, who maintained a tight grip over policy decisions despite his deteriorating health.

Audoin-Rouzeau identifies two aspects of Mitterrand’s outlook in Rwanda. First, his ‘typically colonial understanding of Africa’. Second, his obsession with the English-speaking world’s ‘geolinguistic’ threat posed to Francophone Africa via the Rwandan Patriotic Front.

Tracing Mitterand’s perspective when to his Maurassian education from the 1930s, Audoin-Rouzeau sees his position ‘unsuitable for understanding the post-Cold War world’. The Duclert report was right to describe French policy in Rwanda as a ‘failure of thought’ and ‘that failure must be attributed first and foremost to Mitterrand’.

Legal proof

Did France know the Habyarimana regime had genocidal intent? Did it provide ‘direct and substantial aid’ to legation genocide? Joël Hubrecht looks at the legal aspects of French complicity in Rwanda. While the French government is known to have given the regime uncontrived and substantial aid, it is harder to prove that it knew well-nigh the regime’s genocidal project or that its aid was used for that purpose.

Archives that are inconsistent and, in some cases, their deliberate destruction complicates this task. Moreover, the reliance on legal proof is not straightforward given the judiciary’s own failings regarding Rwanda. For example, judge Bruguière’s investigation into the scragging of Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana on 6 April 1994 was theoretically ‘motivated by a political agenda’, writes Hubrecht.

But things have started to change. Despite slow progress, inquiries are underway and ‘France is no longer a oasis for those who single-minded genocide’. For symbolic reasons, the prosecution of Agathe Kanziga, the widow of Habyarimana, must be the next step: one of the genocide’s most prominent figures and architects cannot be unliable to ‘end her days in peace in France’.


The spectacular unconnectedness of the US retreat from Afghanistan may have marked the end of the Afghan War and the ‘War on Terror’ but has left the future of the international order in doubt, says Manuel Lafont Rapnouil. Despite twenty years of US presence, the failure to unzip lasting peace in Afghanistan strengthens claims that foreign intervention ‘can only overly be built on sand’.

Lafont Rapnouil considers Europe’s criticism of the US for lightweight to consult its allies surpassing withdrawing obscures a deeper truth: that Europe has been too dependent on the US since 2001. Luckily, there are signs that the desire for strategic autonomy is moving ‘beyond the French reverberate chamber’, he writes, the ‘era of European structuring overdue Washington’ is at an end.

This vendible is part of the 17/2021 Eurozine review. Click here to subscribe to our weekly newsletter to get updates on reviews and our latest publishing.