The role of French Military in the Genocide against the Tutsi between 1990 and 1994
The persistent refusal of the French authorities to validate the ballistic investigation by French experts in Rwanda in 2010 which indicated that missiles were fired form Kanombe military barracks or its immediate vicinities, is a manoeuvre that aims to continue the war that they betrothed in Rwanda in 1990. French actors were involved in the genocide as perpetrators or accomplices and do not want their deeds to be known despite the obvious proofs at disposal. The role of nineteen (19) military officers is undoubtable.
1) Lieutenant-Colonel Michel ROBARDEY
a) Robardey established a computerized system for filing and keeping lists of people to be killed
Michel Robardey arrived in Rwanda in September 1990 and left in April 1994. Robardey led a team of French gendarmes composed of Major Corrière and Chief Warrant Officers Nicolas, Colle and Salvy. These gendarmes under the command of Robardey, developed and installed what was known as "central file" or “Centre for Criminal Research and Documentation (CRCD)" known as CRIMINOLOGY, a data storage system which enabled them to compile lists of wanted persons and those to be searched. The lists developed targeted primarily the Tutsi and most potential opponents of the then government. The filing of these people aimed at preparing their extermination.
b) The lists established by Robardey and his team encompassed one of the tools of genocide
The predictable gravity of the lists had been denounced by some of the then Rwandan authorities from the opposition. In February 1993, the then Prime Minister, Dismas Nsengiyaremye, sent a letter to the then minister of defence in which he protested against the lists of people to hunt down and demanded their removal.
Certainly, without these lists, the killers wouldn’t have been able to identify the families of several victims they massacred in 1994. The establishment of these lists was done between 1992 and 1994. A note from French military secret services acknowledges that since the first day of the genocide, “equipped with pre-established lists, soldiers of the presidential Guard undertook the killing of all Tutsi and Hutu from the south or those supporting opposition parties.”
c) Robardey led acts of torture
In the same center, Robardey participated in a series of violent interrogations against thousands of people who were detained there. Michel Robardey managed a team who operated closely with Rwandan gendarmes. In February 1993, major Corrière, under the command of Robardey, tortured two Tutsi people; Japheth Rudasingwa and Anne Marie Byukusenge, in CRIMINOLOGY premises accusing them of giving photos showing French soldiers fighting alongside the Forces Armées Rwandaise (FAR) to a Rwandan newspaper, Le Flambeau. Rudasingwa managed to escape alive, because his friends managed to alert the Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR).
d) Robardey concealed the crimes committed by the regime of Juvenal Habyarimana
During their presence in Criminology, French gendarmes, led by Michel Robardey, during criminal investigations, concealed any trace or any evidence that could demonstrate or prove the involvement of the Rwandan regime in the terrorist acts that were taking place in Rwanda, including grenade attacks and illegitimate killings that were attributed to the RPF.
e) Robardey is an outright denier
Currently, Michel Robardey is a member of an association of deniers called “France-Turquoise” which brings together the former French soldiers who participated in the Operation Turquoise in Rwanda in 1994.
During this operation, several crimes were committed by the same soldiers or their Rwandan allies. Michel Robardey owns a blog on which he disseminates disavowal ideas about the genocide committed against Tutsis. He participates in many seminars of genocide deniers and always testifies in favour of the suspected Rwandan genocidaires in France and other countries’ courts. He did the same during the Simbikangwa case.
2) Colonel Gilbert Canovas
Gilbert Canovas was the operational assistant to the Defence Attaché from October to November 1990 and Advisor to the Chief of Staff of the Rwandan gendarmerie. He was actively involved in the implementation of the plans to establish roadblocks on which several civilians were killed.
On April 12, 1991, in companionship of Major Christian Refalo, Gilbert Canovas went to Ruhengeri “for the purpose, he writes, of studying how to conquer and take control of the area of the volcano forests occupied by Inyenzi and where all infiltration attempts have by the army have so far failed." During this operation, Gilbert Canovas established a plan meant for civil self-defence which later became a platform to engage many people to commit massacres.
Gilbert Canovas notes in his report of 30 April, 1991 that he proposed "the establishment of a few elements in civilian outfits, disguised as peasants, in generally isolated sensitive areas, so as to neutralize the rebels."
These civilians were the Interahamwe trained for the sole purpose of killing civilians, on a purely ethnic or political basis. Another example of his commitment to the plan is the meeting of 18 February, 1991 between Michel Robardey, Colonel Gilbert Canovas and the Chief of Staff of the Rwandan gendarmerie during which Colonel Canovas "reported being fully available to provide support for an effective defence of the capital Kigali.
3) Colonel Jacques Rosier
Jacques Rosier was head of Military Support Detachment and Instruction (DAMI) between June 1992 and November 1992. Jacques Rosier had the primary mission to counter the advance of the Rwanda Patriotic Army (APR). It is during this year, 1992, that the DAMI emerged in Gabiro, Gako, Mukamira and Bigogwe military barracks, heightened the training of Interahamwe in these barracks, and the University of Nyakinama. Jacques Rosier was the coordinator of the training. The two waves of killings that took place in Bugesera in early March 1992 and the targeting of Bagogwe Tutsis between November 1992 and January 1993, were committed by the Interahamwe trained by French instructors from DAMI.
It should be noted that the initiator of this training was Colonel Gilles Chollet who led the DAMI from March 1991 to February 1992. These training courses were also denounced in the preliminary report of the UN Commission of experts in these terms: " subsequently, a training camp for Hutu militia (Interahamwe) was established in Mutara. The sessions lasted three weeks each, including the indoctrination of 300 men to ethnic hatred against the Tutsi minority. The sessions also included learning of mass killing methods. "
4) Captain Etienne Joubert
He was the head of DAMI section known as Panda from 23 December, 1992 to 18 May, 1993. Etienne Joubert participated in the training of Interahamwe in Gabiro military camp. He was responsible for the training, and coordinated them as head of the DAMI. In Gabiro camp, Etienne Joubert and his men formed three distinct groups of people: Burundian Hutu, Rwandan soldiers who had to fight on the front and Interahamwe Militia.
During the Turquoise, Etienne Joubert came to Rwanda, in Gikongoro, initially as head of the forces of Special Operations Command (SOC) and at the same time intelligence officer and chief operating officer. Members of SOC he commanded were the first French soldiers to arrive in Gikongoro on June 24, 1994 and settled in the premises of the “Village d’enfants SOS”.
Etienne Joubert immediately cooperated with the authorities responsible for the genocide, including Prefet Bucyibaruta and Captain Sebuhura; organizers of the genocide in Gikongoro prefecture.
In SOS and ACEPR College, military men placed under his command committed killings against the Tutsi, systematic rape and sexual assaults. Etienne Joubert took no measures to stop them.
5) Other French officers involved in crimes between 1990 and 1994
a) Colonel Didier Tauzin: he served as military adviser to President Habyarimana from 1990 to 1993, head of DAMI Panda and “Opération Chimère” (22 February-28 March 1993), then after, commander for a short time, of Turquoise Gikongoro.
He contributed towards training of the militia and fought the RPF in 1993. He boasted using the following terms: "We made it difficult for the RPF! (...) We broke the momentum towards Kigali. (...)" He was clearly opposed to the Arusha peace agreement, which he regarded as "totally unrealistic, outrageous and despicable, a desertion and treason" for it (the agreement) allowed “the intrusion of RPF militia in the country”. In other words, members of the RPF “are not Rwandans, they are a foreign militia!” He told the press, on 04/07/1994, that the French army would not hesitate “to break the back of the RPF”. He was recalled and replaced by Colonel Patrice Sartre. In his book published in 2011 “Rwanda: I demand justice for France and its soldiers”, Tauzin denies that there was a genocide against the Tutsi.
b) Colonel René Galinié: Defence Attaché and head of military assistance to Rwanda (August 1988-July 1991), Commander of the Noroît Operation (1990-July 1991 except November 1990), Defence Attaché to the Embassy of France in Rwanda and head of the military cooperation mission (July 1991-April 1994), Noroît commander from July 1991-December 1993 except February and March 1993. He was aware of all the massacres committed by the Habyarimana regime, he covered them, and kept on providing assistance and logistical support to the regime.
c) Colonel Bernard Cussac: Defence Attaché and Chief of cooperation mission at the Embassy of France in Rwanda (July 1991-April 1994), Commander of Operation Noroît (July 91 to December 93, except for February and March 1993). He participated in the interrogation of RPF prisoners of war and the so-called civilian accomplices of the RPF. Most of them were killed. In his own report of 5 April 1993, he says that there was a possibility for a genocide to occur.
d) Lt Col. Jean-Jacques Maurin: Operations assistant to the Defence Attaché of the Embassy of France in Rwanda from 1992 to 1994 and Advisor to the Chief of Staff of Rwanda. He was advisor to Col Serubuga, the then chief of Staff of the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) in conducting operations and preparation and training of troops.
They both held regular meetings to plan and analyse the situation of the military operations and trainings. He himself says, participated "in the development of the daily battle plans and was involved in taking decisions” for FAR. He succeeded Colonel Gilbert Canovas and Lt Col. Gilles Chollet to that position. Maurin co-led also the Amarlys operation with Colonel Henri Poncet in which Tutsis were killed especially at the Kigali airport.
e) Commandant Grégoire De Saint Quentin: Technical Adviser to the Commander of the Para-commando battalion, Major Aloys Ntabakuze and training officer of airborne troops, August 1992 - 12 April 1994. He was present at Kanombe military barracks and led the operations of checking aircrafts. He trained the killers of the Para-commando battalion which covered the operations that took place in Kanombe on the evening of 06/04/1994.
f) Colonel Dominique Delort : Head of Noroît and DAMI. In February-March 1993, the contingence of French troops he commanded in Bigogwe and Mukamira military camps conducted training for the Rwandan army and Interahamwe militia.
In February 1993, he set identity check mechanisms to all entry points to Kigali on the Ruhengeri-Kigali, Gitarama-Kigali and Rwamagana-Kigali axes. This active surveillance was usually carried out jointly with the Rwandan gendarmerie. Civilians were arrested on ethnic grounds; some of them went missing and others killed. Colonel Delort acknowledged their existence before the French Parliamentary Commission in 1998.
He instigated a bitter hatred against the RPF where for example, in March 1993, he ordered Lt Col. Michel Robardey to provide “special attention on gathering information about the massacres and atrocities of the RPF to better counter their propaganda”.
g) Lieutenant-Colonel Jean-Louis Nabias: On 3rdMarch 1992, he replaced Colonel Chollet, head of DAMI PANDA. His job was to provide training to regiments of the FAR, putting more emphasis on their weakest areas such as night infiltration missions or learning sidestepping techniques. Training on extended fire support was also provided as FAR exhibited limited effectiveness in this field. These trainings were carried out in Gabiro and Bigogwe barracks. The same exercises were concurrently given to Interahamwe militia.
h) Commander Denis Roux: Since November 1991 to February 1993, he was the head of DAMI Presidential Guard. The mission of the DAMI was to carry out physical training, shooting training and staff protection techniques. This DAMI trained Presidential Guard and Interahamwe militia who eventually spearheaded the genocide.
One of the trainers, Warrant Officer Thierry Prungnaud acknowledged it with remorse on 22nd April 2005 before journalists of France Culture: “I am optimistic; French military officers trained militia men in 1992. This occurred several times. The Presidential Guard were involved in several assassinations, especially between 1992 and 1994”.
i) Captain Paul Barril: In 1990, before the RPF offensive, Barril conducted an audit of the Rwandan army. He presented himself as adviser to President Habyarimana. During the genocide, he was paid by the genocidal Government to train elite soldiers as part of “operation Insecticide,” meant to eliminate the Tutsi. He himself reported to have been present in Rwanda on 7th April 1994, he also aired on France 2 TV in June 1994, an apparatus that he claimed to be the black box of Falcon 50 of Habyarimana. He is among those who actively deny the genocide committed against the Tutsi. He is especially known to be the core behind the alleged investigations of Judge Bruguiere.
6) The senior French officers responsible for crimes committed in Turquoise
French military officers who were commanders of Turquoise in Cyangugu, Kibuye and Gikongoro are responsible for serious crimes committed at that time, and are now engaged in solemn denial of genocide.
a) General Jean-Claude LAFOURCADE
Jean-Claude Lafourcade was the top commander of the French forces engaged in Turquoise from 22nd June to 22nd August 1994. Those French military officers cooperated with the authorities involved in the preparation and executing of genocide. The testimonies of French officers collected by journalists during Turquoise prove that French officers knew well who they were dealing with when they decided to work with these genocidal authorities. For example, Captain Marin Gillier confirmed to journalist Christian Lecomte in July 1994: “We know that the mayors and sous-prefets of this region are mostly involved in the massacres of Tutsi or their instigators. We have accumulated evidence to prove it. But for now, they are our only contacts with the million and a half Hutu refugees who poured into the area”.
During Turquoise, without the complicity of the French military, under the command of General Jean-Claude Lafourcade, crimes that occurred in Cyangugu, Kibuye and Gikongoro would not have occurred. These crimes were given support through personnel, logistics in terms of weapons, transport and fuel provided by French military. Nevertheless, the UN mandate to Turquoise emphasized “strictly on humanitarian character of the operation to be conducted impartially and neutrally”.
b) Colonel Jacques Hogard
Jacques Hogard was the commander of Turquoise in Cyangugu. He allowed his subordinates to commit the killing of Tutsi, rape and sexual violence. In Cyangugu, French soldiers gave weapons to Interahamwe militiamen, encouraged them to hunt down Tutsi and kill them. At Nyarushishi camp of internally displaced people, guarded by French soldiers, Tutsi from outside were intercepted by Interahamwe militiamen before they can enter the camp. Tutsi refugees, pushed by hunger and attempted to go out of the camp, were killed by the Interahamwe positioned on the roadblocks in view of French soldiers.
Jacques Hogard often went to Nyarushishi; he saw the situation of the survivors and stood aloof for the crimes to continue. The practice of rape by French military was also frequent and systematic in their camps in Cyangugu. In their campsite at Kamarampaka Stadium, Interahamwe used to bring girls in daylight. On 17th December 2005, Jacques Hogard created and ran a blog on which articles and items of denial and insult to Tutsi, whom he called cockroaches, were published. It was closed in 2007 fearing prosecution for public insults and hate speech.
c) Colonel Jacques Rosier
In June 1994, Jacques Rosier came back to Rwanda as head of Special Operations Command (SOC) from 22 June to 30 July 1994 in the Zone Turquoise. The massacre of the Tutsi in Bisesero emanates from his individual decisions. Jacques Rosier was in Kibuye on June 26, 1994 where he inspected the deployment of Lt Colonel Jean-Rémy Duval (aka Diego) and his 35 men of the CPA-10 at the Ecole Technique de Kibuye. It was from there that he refused to order intervention operation to save Tutsi survivors of Bisesero whereas he had just been informed that they would be killed soon after. The same day, Jacques Rosier legitimized crimes committed by militiamen in the Zone Turquoise. He told reporters: “The militiamen are at war. For reasons of neutrality, we do not have to intervene. Otherwise, in case there are rebel infiltrations, we might be blamed”
d) Col. Patrice Sartre
Patrice Sartre was the commander of Turquoise Gikongoro from 05th to 16th July 1994 and Kibuye from 16th July to 21st August 1994. During these periods, a series of attacks followed by murder, rape and other inhuman treatment, targeted civilians. For example, in Rubengera, French soldiers under his command collaborated with local authorities of Mabanza Commune who were actively involved in genocide.
Having heard of the arrival of the French military, a great number of Tutsi who had survived came out of hiding. French soldiers ordered the killing of Tutsi who were assembled behind the classes. When the advancement of RPA hastened and its potential victory became imminent, Col. Patrice Sartre organized two meetings to mobilize the population to flee. The first was held on 13th July 1994, the second took place on 23rd July 1994.
e) Commander Marin Gillier
Marin Gillier commanded the French military detachment based at Gishyita commune offices. He was informed on June 26, 1994 by foreign journalists of the existence of surviving Tutsi in Bisesero and that massacres of civilians were taking place. He went there with his colleague Diego and his detachment. They met Bisesero survivors and left them unprotected. At Gishyita Marin Gillier had military helicopters hovering over the region. He was therefore aware of the acts of genocide in the area under his control.
f) Lieutenant Colonel Eric De Stabenrath
Eric De Stabenrath led Turquoise in Gikongoro from 16th July to 22ndAugust, 1994. After their settlement in Gikongoro, French soldiers directly collaborated with administrative and military authorities of the prefecture who committed the genocide. At Murambi camp, the French soldiers who controlled its access always asked people their ethic group, and inside, they mingled indiscriminately Tutsi survivors of the genocide, former FAR elements and militiamen who had participated in the genocide.
This coexistence allowed militiamen to continue killings in the camp though it was a space meant to meet the humanitarian criteria. Foreign journalists on the scene in July-August 1994, described a situation where Tutsi survivors were threatened to death by Interahamwe militiamen. Crimes such as rape and assault were frequent, widespread and systematic in the headquarters where Eric De Stabenrath stayed.
7) The French officers involved in crimes from Paris
a) General Jacques Lanxade
He was the Special Chief of Staff of President Francois Mitterrand from April 1989 to April 1991 and Army Chief of Staff (from April 1991 to September 1995). Jacques Lanxade was accountable for military policy in Rwanda and its vagaries. The French army under Jacques Lanxade, played in Rwanda between 1990 and 1994, the role of a real occupation force, involved in serious crimes.
As supreme commander of the Army, Jacques Lanxade received any reports of abuses by the Rwandan army, the massacres, its discriminatory and genocidal policy, but he maintained increased assistance to this criminal army; by providing means like equipment and logistical support, for its training and development.
In 1991, Jacques Lanxade paid a visit to Rwanda in companionship of his chief of staff, General Pidancet and colonel Delort, head of external relations. During this visit, Jacques Lanxade participated in talks with higher authorities of the State and the Army, and visited on ground the Noroît and DAMI detachments. During this visit, Jacques Lanxade was informed of the massacres committed by the FAR on Bagogwe in Ruhengeri, but maintained the presence of French instructors.
Jacques Lanxade maintained the stance of considering RPF as invaders from Uganda and attributing it to the Tutsi group as a whole and thereby transforming a political conflict into ethnic or racial conflict. Jacques Lanxade argued that the Hutu ethnic majority corresponded to the democratic majority, and then decided to take sides with that majority. Worse, for Jacques Lanxade, every Tutsi was considered a potential fighter of the RPF; France’s enemy that had to be fought. The magnitude of this ethnocentric doctrine of Jacques Lanxade is evident in his official notes.
On the orders of Jacques Lanxade, in 1991, French soldiers in DAMI Panda were instructed to offer support to FAR in order to empower the government militarily in order to give it an upper hand in peace negotiations with RPF. During genocide, Jacques Lanxade continued to portray discriminatory concepts against Tutsi people. In special meetings held on 22 June 1994 and 29 June 1994, between president François Mitterand and Jacques Lanxade, they portrayed a divisive attitude and favor to those they considered Hutu masses while they denounced those they called Ugandan Tutsi invadors, the RPF.
Briefly, documents and testimony show that Jacques Lanxade was informed by his Defence Attaché, of any situation prevailing in Rwanda since 1990, and that important decisions were taken after his approval. Ambassador Jean-Michel Marlaud confessed before the French Parliamentary Commission (MIP) that all communications from the Embassy of France in Rwanda were controlled by the military attaché who, in turn, reported to Jacques Lanxade and Christian Quesnot.
Therefore, Jacques Lanxade was one of the most knowledgeable French personalities of the criminal situation that prevailed in Rwanda; it is in this regard that he knowingly took compromising decisions with the civil and military authorities who committed the genocide in Rwanda.
b) General Christian Quesnot
Special Chief of staff of President Mitterrand from 1991 to 1995, Christian Quesnot is one of those responsible for unreserved support to the Habyarimana regime. He was the main informant of the Chief of Staff regarding any interventions; both official and secret, that the French army carried out in Rwanda. In all his notes to President Mitterrand, Christian Quesnot advocated for immoderate support to the Habyarimana regime and its armed forces.
During the genocide, Christian Quesnot had constant talks with the president of the genocidal government, Theodore Sindikubwabo, and pleaded with President Mitterrand for military support from France in favour of the FAR. On 29thApril, 1994, three weeks into the genocide, Christian Quesnot wrote extremely offensive words about the RPF: “The RPF is the most fascist party I met in Africa. It can be equated to “black Khmers”. It has a collusion with Belgians”. On 4th May 1994, the same demonization was repeated. On 6th May 1994, Christian Quesnot offered support to FAR who were committing the genocide. On May 24, 1994, General Quesnot, addressing the President, urged him to decide on a direct military support to the FAR and the interim government: “The coming to power in the region of a minority whose aims and organization are much more like the system of the Khmer Rouge is a guarantee of regional instability whose consequences have not been anticipated by those, including France, whose complicity and complacency are obvious”. The ferocity of these remarks and hatred they contain reflect a total and deliberate adherence to the ideas and actions of the perpetrators of the genocide.
c) General Jean-Pierre Huchon
He was the deputy to General Quesnot from April 1991 to April 1993 and head of the military cooperation mission from April 1993 to October 1995. Huchon shared the same ethnocentric vision on Rwanda with his direct superior. Researcher Jean-Paul Gouteux indicates that Christian Quesnot and Jean-Pierre Huchon influenced the decisions of French Presidency on Rwanda.
While exercising these functions, he upheld manipulation of ethnicity and coordinated the delivery of arms, munitions and military equipment to FAR before and during the genocide. These weapons were used to carry out massacres of innocent civilians killed by the army and paramilitary militias.
In May 1994, Jean-Pierre Huchon repeatedly received in his office in Paris, Lt. Col. Cyprien Kayumba, head of procurement and logistics in the Rwandan defence ministry, who stayed there for twenty-seven days “to try to speed up the supply of weapons and ammunition to the Rwandan army”. A weaponries purchase order was offered to the SOFREMAS, a public company solely controlled by the French state. On 9th May 1994, Jean-Pierre Huchon also received Lt Colonel Ephrem Rwabalinda, Advisor to the Chief of Staff of the FAR. In the report on his mission, Ephrem Rwabalinda mentioned among the priorities discussed with Jean-Pierre Huchon “the support of Rwanda by France in terms of international politics; the physical presence of French military in Rwanda (...) to gather support within the cooperation framework, indirect use of regular or non-regular foreign troops”. Ephrem Rwabalinda also indicated that Jean-Pierre Huchon had undertaken to provide FAR ammunition and communications equipment.
Rwabalinda added that Jean-Pierre Huchon advised Rwanda to brand the RPF as the one responsible for the genocide: “(...) if nothing is done to return the country's image outside, Rwanda’s military and political leaders will be held accountable for the massacres committed in Rwanda.” He reiterated this point several times. (...) “portraying the good image of the country on the international scene is a priority that is NOT subjected to be brushed aside. These Telephones I bring should help get out of isolation vis-à-vis the international community”. Rwabalinda concluded that “the military house of cooperation is preparing emergency measures to be taken in favour of us”.
The analysis of these facts demonstrates that senior French officers and politicians committed serious crimes in Rwanda. The refusal to end the judicial investigation and to pronounce a dismissal of warrants against Rwandan leaders who ended the genocide is a concealment of these responsibilities. They only continue the war they undertook against the RPF since 1990. The journalist Mehdi BA is right when he writes: "France, it is well established, was the strongest military and political supporter of Rwanda before and during the genocide. Conversely, French diplomats and military exhibited a fierce hatred for the RPF, that they consistently manifest until today”.
It is not by coincidence that Kayumba Nyamwasa’s lawyer, is Me Veronique TRUONG who is also General Christian Quesnot’s lawyer.
Done at Kigali, on 31 October, 2016
Dr Jean damascene Bizimana