Rwandan Genocide: Why did the French army delayed taking action in Bisesero ?
Guillaume Ancel, former officer in the French Army during “Operation Turquoise” in 1994 published on the 16th of February 2016 an article in Le Monde to clarify the reasons leading the French Army not to take an immediate action in Bisesero.
The “Operation Turquoise” took place several months after the beginning of massacres in Rwanda and that progressively lead to strong fears of a genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis. However, the position of France was to support the official Hutu government against the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) composed by Tutsis.
In this context, French troops discovered, on June 27th, hundreds of Tutsis survivors hiding in the hills of Bisesero and continuously harassed by Hutus militia aiming to kill them. These Tutsis couldn’t possibly be assimilated to the RPF.
However, the soldiers received the order not to intervene: a situation leading some of the officer to “rediscover” the survivors and to send an official report to their hierarchy, thus forcing it to take action on the 30th of June. Meanwhile, hundreds of survivors were slaughtered by the genocidal regime.
Colonel Rosier and General Lafourcade were questioned on this non-intervention despite clear proof of alert since the 27th of June. Their defense then changed and now relies on the lack of adequate staffing to secure Bisesero.
This argument is however refuted by Guillaume Ancel, who highlights the presence of enough operational units, including his own, perfectly formed to this kind of situation. On the contrary, he affirms that these units weren’t mobilized because “Operation Turquoise” was conceived as a humanitarian mission hiding its true purpose to support the Hutu government against the RPF.
So why such a delay to take action questions Guillaume Ancel? Because France remained faithful to its year lasting policy, blindfolded by a political heritage and never democratically discussed it. It’s only during the night from the 30th of June to the 1st of July that a debate appeared with the fear that France might be accused of complicity in genocide.
According to Guillaume Ancel, much more than the soldiers and officers conforming to these absurd orders, the then political leaders of French government are accountable of this situation, though they keep fleeing from their responsibilities that led to the massacre of more than 800 000 persons.
To learn more, see here (French).
"Il devient absolument urgent de mettre un terme à cette injustice. Il y a un manque de connaissances et de recherches. Il faut donc promouvoir le recueil de témoignages, mais aussi construire des mémoriaux, organiser des expositions..." - @BenjaminAbtan