World News: France’s Newly Discovered Role in the Tutsis Massacre

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If new unearthed archival documents eventually confirm the role of France in the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda throughout 1994, the revelations will confirm the decline of France’s diplomatic influence on an international scale.

It's a dirty business. Of those which poison the Republic, which stains the reputation of a country which wants to be, and often claims to be, a model of virtue and defense of Human Rights. This case, the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda in the spring of 1994, does not let go of France, stuck to its History like a piece of tape on its fingers (

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The facts are simple: at the beginning of the 1990s, under the presidency of François Mitterrand, alarming signals come from this country of Central Africa, in the African Great Lakes region, highlighting the increasing violence brought against the Tutsi populations and uttered by the Hutus, the other ethnic group living in Rwanda. The origins of this hatred which separates the two peoples are old and poorly understood by the former colonial power that is France.  

Françafrique and Influence 

The country's borders, drawn by Westerners totally ignorant of the existing rivalries between the different peoples of Africa, therefore include two ethnic groups incapable of negotiating a peaceful and lasting cohabitation.

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The genocide will begin in the spring and will result in nearly 800,000 Tutsi victims. The role of France is then singled out, its influence in the region questioned, the networks of Françafrique put on the grill, its status as a vilified former colonial power, Operation Turquoise launched by the United Nations (UN) and entrusted to stigmatized France.

And the business of getting bogged down and sinking in the eddies of history, regularly coming to the surface with its share of new revelations always accusing a little more of the inertia and inaction of France during the period. (

But beyond the historical facts which become a little clearer and more precise over the years, there is also the question of the influence of France within a continent which has long been its hunt guarded, its muted rivalries with other European nations implicated in an underlying way in the region such as Germany or the United Kingdom for the tacit control of a continent of coveted riches.

This influence, which France then sought to maintain, the day after the disappearance of the East-West confrontation which had paralyzed the world for nearly 45 years, was going to demonstrate all its weakness and its inanity by letting the tragedy unfold.

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As François Mitterrand's second seven-year term ended in the pain of an incurable disease, as cohabitation was in full swing and the country was trying to forge its way into the new world order placed under the seal of the most unbridled liberalism, the genocide of the Tutsis in France almost went by the wayside of history.  

Diplomatic Ineffectiveness and Mediocrity 

Incapable of maintaining a diplomatic rank which it had lost since the defeat of May-June 1940 and the illusion of victory in 1945 causing it to pass, through a sleight of hand from General De Gaulle, like a a great power, France therefore allowed itself to embark on a military operation which was to establish the preliminary bases for a future peace but which above all proved to be aberrantly ineffective.

With a role poorly defined by the UN, the Turquoise force, so baptized, therefore did not know, or according to the Rwandan version of the events of the time, did not want to stop the genocidal drama. Having become a middle power, with a limited sphere of influence and authority, France revealed, via the Tutsi genocide, all its diplomatic mediocrity at the time.

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Competing on a European and global scale, struggling in the economic battle of globalization which was asserting itself, France, anxious to assert a second or even third-tier international position, has damaged its image by a role still contested.

But 25 years later, in a transformed international context, while relations between France and Rwanda are still strained, regular revelations about its role during the conflict discredit the official thesis of non-support for the then Rwandan government, realities persist which refer the nation of Voltaire and Rousseau to the list of tasks that his History has left him.  



Bio: Olivier Longhi has extensive experience in European history. A seasoned journalist with fifteen years of experience, he is currently professor of history and geography in the Toulouse region of France. He has held a variety of publishing positions, including Head of Agency and Chief of Publishing. A journalist, recognized blogger, editor and editorial project manager, he has trained and managed editorial teams, worked as a journalist for various local radio stations, a press and publishing consultant, and a communications consultant.

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