Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Mucyo Commission (Findings on France's Role in the Rwandan Genocide)

I had heard quite a bit about the Mucyo Commission that was established when I first moved to Rwanda in 2006. Much has been made of the findings, and I wanted to read it for myself to see exactly what it included. I found the French version tucked away on some obscure Rwandan government website (so well hidden that I can't find it again), but I did manage to read the entire thing. If someone knows where an English version may be found, please post. It's quite interesting (and incredibly sad) to read. Following is my (incomplete) synopsis. I pulled some of the most alarming things that I read, but there is much more included in the report.

The Mucyo Commission
The Mucyo (pronounced "Moo-cho") Commission was an independent commission, named for its head, the former Minister of Justice Jean de Dieu Mucyo. It was established by the Rwandan Government on April 16, 2006 to investigate France's role in the Rwandan genocide from April to July 1994. The 331-page final report was released in September 2008.

Methods of information collection: Public and private archives, investigations in the field, witness testimonies in public and private; meetings and archive consultations in Rwanda, Belgium, France, Germany, and Tanzania. Particular emphasis on including only those testimonies that could be corroborated. Translations found below are my own.

Key Findings/Accusations of the Mucyo Commission

• French soldiers were present in the Rwandan Army before and during the genocide; thus allegations that the French were unaware of who was killing whom are questionable, because top military officials were helping to plan Rwandan Army strategies

• French soldiers helped to train the youth militia, the Interahamwe, before the genocide.

One former Interahamwe member said,
“The French taught us how to shoot at targets. They drew a head at which we aimed…These were the French who gave us grades and prizes as a function of our results. They gave us alcohol. According to our grades, they promised a bottle of banana beer.”
• President Mitterand believed that the Tutsi, who were invading from the north, wanted to establish a Tutsi regime. Since they represented an ethnic minority, this was viewed as a challenge to democracy.

• The French army manned road blocks and encouraged Interahamwe to kill Tutsi when their identity cards were checked.

• The French helped to prepare lists of Tutsi suspected to be aligned with the RPF (Tutsi rebels) and Hutu sympathizers, and gave it to the government for investigation. These lists are believed to have been used in house-to-house targeting of victims.

• Several RPF prisoners-of-war that were held at the Kigali military base were tortured and assassinated in the presence of and with the participation of French soldiers.

• The genocidal leader who took over the government after the plane was shot down, Théoneste Bagosora, was encouraged to do so by the French government. The French military promised to provide ammunition and communication equipment.

• The French military provided an estimated five tons of arms and ammunition to the Rwandan military government two days after the genocide began, and flew additional arms to Goma for transport into Rwanda one month after the genocide began.

• Operation Turquoise, a French “safe zone” established in June 1994 permitted Hutu extremists to escape into Zaire with their light and heavy armaments. Tutsi who believed it was a safe zone for them were slaughtered.

• Tutsi captives were systematically thrown by the French from their helicopters over Nyungwe Forest.

“French soldiers tied my hands and legs. A little after that, they put me in a bag up to the neck and put me in their Jeep…Then they transported me in a helicopter above the Nyungwe Forest and threw me out, to a place called Kuwa Senkoko. I was injured by a branch that I fell on and I felt shaken by the shock.”

A local official substantiated these claims, saying:

"The French soldiers left early in the morning in their Jeeps. Sometimes I went with them, essentially as a translator. They were looking to arrest Tutsi. Among them, the French soldiers chose some, hit them, bound them, and put them in bags with only the head exposed. Then they put them in the helicopter. After, the French told me that they were thrown in the Nyungwe Forest. I asked them why they used these methods, and a French captain said the French did not want people to know that they had killed, and that finally, they threw people down into the forest because they didn’t have time to bury them.”

• French soldiers participated in the rape of Tutsi civilians.

“I arrived in Gikongoro around July 20…One night, 4 to 5 French soldiers,
accompanied by a Rwandan in military uniform, came and asked me to follow them,
telling me they were taking me to a safer place. At the same time, they took a
woman named Colette. They took us to SOS. We found that they were keeping other
girls and women there. I was raped all night by a Frenchman. He kept me between
5 and 10 days. They promised us they would help us leave Gikongoro to go to a
safer place. Every day, they lied to us like that, and at night, they continued
to sexually abuse us.”

• Thirteen French officials were named in relation to aiding and abetting genocide in Rwanda. These include former President Francois Mitterand, Alain Juppé, Hubert Védrine, and Dominique de Villepin.

I should mention that the French conducted their own independent assessment, called the Quilès Report, in 1998, which stated that “If France did not participate in battle, nevertheless on the ground it was extremely close to the Rwandan Armed Forces. It continuously participated in the working out of battle plans, provided advice to the general staff, and to commanders, proposing redeployments and new tactics. It sent advisers to instruct the Rwandan Armed Forces in the operation of advanced weapons.” The report said that Paris routinely disregarded warnings from French advisers in the field that their advice could be put to bad use, but the report stated that France “in no way incited, encouraged, or supported those who orchestrated the genocide.”

As a result of France’s role during the genocide, the RPF, which ended the genocide and established a new government in Rwanda, has had very strained diplomatic relations with France. In November 2006, after the Mucyo Commission was launched, French human rights judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere accused Rwandan President Paul Kagame and the RPF of shooting down the plane that sparked the genocide. Shortly thereafter, French diplomats were summarily kicked out of the country, and diplomatic relations were only restored in November 2009. (In that time, Rwanda also became an Anglophone, Commonwealth country.) French reactions to the Mucyo report have been, predictably, angry. French public officials have questioned the report’s integrity and have supported the findings of the Quilès report.

In case you're looking for more information:

Discussion of the Quilès Report: Craig Whitney, “Panel Finds French Errors in Judgment on Rwanda,” New York Times, December 20, 1998,

Rapport de la Commission Nationale Indépendante Chargée de Rassembler les Preuves Montrant l’Implication de l’Etat Français Dans le Génocide Perpétré au Rwanda en 1994, République du Rwanda, 15 Novembre 2007. (Final Draft)

For a response from the Génocidaires held at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda: