Rwanda marks 30 years since France's contested mission to stem 1994 genocide

This Saturday marks a milestone for Rwanda: 30 years since Operation Turquoise, the controversial French-led military intervention launched in the final weeks of the 1994 genocide. The anniversary revives questions over France's role in the events of 1994, and the diplomatic tensions between Paris and Kigali that have marked the decades since.

Launched on 22 June 1994 with a mandate from the United Nations, Operation Turquoise saw some 2,500 mostly French troops deployed to establish "safe zones" for Rwandans fleeing the killing.

It came around two and a half months into the genocide, in which more than a million people, mainly from the Tutsi ethnic minority, were massacred by militias from the dominant Hutu group.

Rwanda has long maintained that France not only failed to stop the slaughter but facilitated the safe passage of tens of thousands of Hutus into neighbouring Zaire – now the Democratic Republic of Congo – leading to many perpetrators of genocide escaping justice.

France has always denied direct complicity in the genocide. But a 2021 report commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron concluded that France bears "heavy and damning responsibilities" for not doing enough to stop the killings.

France's role in bloodshed

The extent of French involvement before and during the genocide is disputed.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who came to power after leading the Tutsi forces that eventually ended the bloodshed, has accused Paris of training the militias who perpetrated killings and continuing to deliver weapons and equipment to the Hutus even after they had begun massacring Tutsis.

Read more on RFI English

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