The Missing Pieces of Rwanda's Genocide

Two years ago, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a fact-finding commission of historians to shed full light on a less glorious past: notably France’s role in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Now, with the Duclert Commission expected to present its conclusions in a matter of weeks, new findings suggest the country did more than commit “errors” nearly three decades ago, as one former French leader once said. Extracts from French Foreign Ministry cables at that time, recently published by investigative website Mediapart and Agence France-Presse, appear to show Paris was aware genocide suspects were hiding in a French-army-controlled “safe-zone” in Rwanda following the slaughter—and did nothing to arrest them. Instead, the ministry instructed its envoy to Rwanda, Yannick Gerard, to request their departure from the area. The allegations have sparked sharp debate, even outrage, in recent days. But they are simply the latest to trickle out from interviews and archives from former President Francois Mitterrand’s government at the time—documents that nonetheless remain largely inaccessible except to a handful of scholars. Together, they add pressure on the Duclert Commission for a comprehensive and transparent accounting of France’s role across the horrific arc of the genocide that killed more than 800,000 people.

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