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Memo suggests French intelligence knew about attack on Rwandan president in lead up to genocide

Gérard Julien, AFP | Rwandan refugees, May 11, 1994.

Radio France and the news site Mediapart published on Wednesday excerpts of a memo from the DGSE – the French equivalent of MI6 and the CIA – which seems to refute the idea that they knew nothing of the Rwandan genocide as it began to unfold.

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The two news organisations published a note from the French exterior intelligence agency in September 1994 saying that two “Hutu extremists” were the main sponsors of an attack that triggered the genocide that year in the eastern African country.

They note that this memo was “declassified by the French defence minister in September 2015” at the request of judicial authorities in Paris.

“This French intelligence document understands that two extremists – Colonel Théoniste Bagosora, an aide to the defence minister; and Laurent Serubuga, a former chief of staff of the Rwandan armed forces – were the main instigators of an April 1994 attack,” says the joint Radio France and Mediapart report. “Did the French secret services really know nothing?” it continued.

This attack on the plane carrying the Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu, is widely considered to be the event that triggered the genocide that killed 800,000 people, according to the UN.

Colonel Bagosora was one of the main perpetrators of the genocide, and has been sentenced to a long prison term by the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

While Rwandan authorities have long suspected him of genocide, Serubuga “moved to France in the ’90s”, according to Radio France and Mediapart. In 2014, French judicial authorities rejected Rwanda’s request to extradite him.

Bagosora and Serubuga’s retirement in 1992, “at the instigation of President Habyarimana, was a significant source of resentment, considering that both colonels hoped to rise to the rank of general”, the French media outlets’ report said.

“The attack on Habyarimana’s plane must have been premeditated for a long time by Hutu extremists,” the article continued. “The assassination of several Tutsis and moderate opposition leaders less than half an hour after the presidential plane was blown up confirms that a lot of preparation went into this attack.”

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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