General defends French response to Rwanda massacre

2016-02-08 05:36
(iStock)

(iStock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Paris - A French general has defended France's response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide, saying his troops did not give so much as a bullet to the perpetrators and did not immediately grasp the scale of the killing, sources say.

General Jean-Claude Lafourcade was questioned over claims that France's UN-mandated Operation Turquoise, which he led, left ethnic Tutsis to be slaughtered by Hutu killers in the western Bisesero hills in June 1994, sources close to the case said.

French soldiers had been deployed in Rwanda a few days earlier under UN instructions to stop the genocide that had begun in April and which three months later had left at least 800 000 people dead, most of them Tutsis.

No massacres

Lafourcade, who appeared as an "assisted witness" - meaning he has not been charged but can be summoned for questioning at any time - again refuted the accusations during lengthy hearings on January 12 and 14, the sources said.

The retired general, now 72, dismissed as "completely false" allegations that French soldiers supplied arms to the Hutu extremists.

"I will say it again here. No munitions, not even a bullet, was given by Operation Turquoise" to the Hutus, Lafourcade told a judge. "Where the French soldiers were, there were no massacres nor abuses.

"It took some time for the reality of the genocide to sink in seeing... the presence of mass graves...burned villages," he added.

There was "a general underestimation - French and international - of the involvement of local and government authorities."

Survivors in 2005 filed a complaint in France, saying the French troops had on June 27 1994 vowed to return to Bisesero, but when they came back three days later, it was too late for hundreds of Tutsis who were massacred.

Lafourcade said he was short staffed, with a unit of 120-130 soldiers and had as priority the "evacuation of the sisters of Kibuye" nuns in western Rwanda.

He was concerned about "thoughtlessly" launching patrols in the country's interior, fearing the kind of attack on troops that had befallen American soldiers in Somalia in 1993.

Mass slaughter

"I can only regret the death of the Tutsis who died during these two days," he said. "We were very much alone."

His lawyer Pierre-Olivier Lambert said that Lafourcade was "very glad to have finally been able to testify before the French justice system as he has been asking to do for many years."

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has accused Paris of complicity in the genocide because of its support of the Hutu nationalist government that carried out the mass slaughter.

Paris has repeatedly denied the accusations and insists that French forces had worked to protect civilians. Bilateral relations, completely frozen from 2006 to 2009, remain tense.

Read more on:    drc  |  france  |  rwanda  |  east africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X

Inside News24

 
/News

Book flights

Compare, Book, Fly

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.




Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.