Video: Did French troops abandon Rwanda’s Tutsis?
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Human rights groups have called for the indictment of two French officers for failing to prevent the massacre of Rwandan Tutsis two decades ago. FRANCE 24 spoke to survivors who say that France failed them.
Jacques Rosier, a former special forces commander, and Marin Gillier, who headed a squad of marines, were part of France’s UN-mandated Turquoise peacekeeping force that was sent to Rwanda in June 1994, at the height of the Rwandan genocide.
Both are now the focus of a campaign for justice led by rights groups and genocide survivors, including the French-based International Human Rights Federation (FIDH).
They charge that the French officers promised endangered refugees in western Rwanda’s Bisesero hills that they would rescue them, but failed to do so until three days later.
During those three days hundreds of ethnic Tutsis were chased and massacred by Hutu militiamen.
When the French first reached Bisesero, local resident Ezequiel Ndayisaba believed he and his family would be safe.
“They said they would come to protect us and we thought they were going to save us,” he told FRANCE 24. “We showed them the still warm bodies of people that had just been killed. But they told us to go back to our hiding places and that they’d be back later. We begged them but they left us anyway.”
His wife and four children were killed the next day.
Aphrodis Ntakirutimana, another genocide survivor, said the French actually helped the slaughter by giving their location away.
“One of the killers was accompanying the French and he told the other killers that we were many,” he said. “They decided to come and hunt us down night and day.”
France has repeatedly denied the accusations and insists that French forces had worked to protect civilians.
A judicial inquiry was launched in 2005 after a survivor filed a complaint against French troops. Investigators are still trying to determine what the officers and the military command actually knew.
In just one hundred days between March and July 1994, at least 800,000 people were massacred during the Rwandan genocide. The victims were mostly Tutsis, along with moderate Hutus who opposed the killings.
Click on the player above to watch Thaïs Brouck’s report from Biserero, Rwanda.