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Rwanda opens probe into role of French officials in genocide

Jose Cendon / AFP | This file photo taken on November 25, 2006 shows the plaque of the French embassy in Kigali. Rwanda opened a formal probe into French officials suspected of playing a role in the 1994 genocide.

Rwanda on Tuesday opened a formal probe into 20 French officials suspected of playing a role in the 1994 genocide which left some 800,000 dead, the prosecutor general said.


"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 a statement by prosecutor general Richard Muhumuza.

This will enable prosecutors to decide "whether the concerned individuals should be formally charged or not."

Muhumuza said the relevant French authorities had been contacted and that full cooperation was expected.

The move is likely to further sour diplomatic relations between the two countries, which has seen regular spats over the past 22 years over France's alleged role in the genocide of ethnic Tutsis, at the hands of Hutu extremists.

The dispute centres on France's role prior to the genocide as a close ally of the Hutu nationalist regime of Juvenal Habyarimana. The shooting down of his plane over Kigali late on April 6, 1994 was the event that triggered 100 days of meticulously-planned slaughter.

France is accused of missing or ignoring the warning signs, and of training soldiers and militia who carried out the killings. When the genocide was in full swing, France was accused of using its diplomatic clout to stall effective action.

When it did finally send in troops -- in Operation Turquoise -- it was accused of only doing so to counter the advance of Kagame's Tutsi rebels and allow the perpetrators to escape to neighbouring Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo.

France, however, maintains its deployment stopped the killings and saved thousands of lives.

And French officials insist that any guilt for failing to prevent the genocide is shared by the entire international community, and in turn accuse Kagame of only raising the issue to distract attention from what they say is his own poor human rights record.


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