James Munyaneza & Felly Kimenyi / The New Times (Kigali) – 2007-11-19 23:59:08
VILLAGE URUGWIRO (17 November 2007) — After nearly one and a half years of inquiry, the Mucyo commission has finally handed over a 500-page report on France’s alleged role in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide to President Paul Kagame and four other senior government leaders.
The commission president Jean de Dieu Mucyo submitted the report yesterday to Kagame, Senate President Dr Vincent Biruta, Prime Minister Bernard Makuza, Chief Justice Aloysia Cyanzayire and Vice Speaker Polisi Denis, who stood in for Speaker Alfred Alfred Mukezamfura.
However, the report’s contents are yet to be made public as both Mucyo and Justice Minister Tharcisse Karugarama — who also attended the ceremony at Village Urugwiro — declined to give its details during a post handover press briefing.
According to a statement from the President’s Office, the report covers a wide range of issues and is heavily laden with information previously unknown, indicating the depth and magnitude of involvement of key players in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
Following a comprehensive presentation, state officials present conveyed appreciation to the commission for the independence and professionalism, as well as the competence and integrity with which it carried out its mandate, and expressed confidence in the findings contained in the report.
These important findings will be addressed and acted upon by relevant organs of the state after appropriate review, the statement added.
“I must announce that we are through with our assignment. We have submitted the report to its lawful recipients and it’s them who will decide when to release it for public consumption,” Mucyo, a former justice minister and prosecutor general, said.
Pressed on whether their report implicates France in the 100-day slaughter of at least one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus, Mucyo only said: “Yes there is (that) responsibility.”
“It was a difficult job. The report contains the testimonies yourselves heard during our public hearing sessions,” he added.
Asked to disclose some of the recommendations in the report, Mucyo said: “We suggested some recommendations to the relevant authorities, but I cannot go into details. It is a very big report.”
Karugarama was equally evasive, saying: “The report is very exhaustive. It covers a wide range of issues and a period spanning seventeen years, from 1990 up to the time of its submission.”
He added: “It’s a well done report. The commission acted and worked independently.
It’s however important not to pre-empt it before the people for whom it was made (top leaders of the three executive organs) read and analysis it, and make appropriate recommendations.”
When pressed to say whether the report categorically pins France on the Genocide, Karugarama insisted: “The report does indeed highlight key players in the Genocide. After due analysis, the authorities will make recommendations they deem appropriate.”
“For a huge report of 500 pages, members of the press and the international community need to be patient for relevant people to first internalise it,” he said.
When asked whether the report would officially be shared with the government of France, he said: “Certainly we shall share it with them ..with everybody; it will be shared with the international community.”
The Mucyo commission was set up in April 2006 to gather and document testimonies on the suspected involvement of French politicians and soldiers in the Genocide, which was planned and systematically executed by the then Rwandan government of extremist Hutus.
During its public hearings, the Mucyo commission heard testimonies from a number of witnesses including French, Belgians and Britons, all of whom accused French soldiers and politicians of actively supporting and directly participating in the Genocide.
At the height of the killings, France – under the auspices of the UN – deployed troops in Rwandan areas along the DR Congo border, under what was called Zone Turquoise.
Witnesses particularly singled out this operation as having worsened matters for fleeing Tutsis, by wooing them out of their hiding, like in Bisesero Hills in present-day Karongi District — and shielding the killers during their subsequent exodus to DR Congo.
Months after the commission had started its work, relations between Kigali and Paris hit rock bottom, after a French judge issued indictments for nine top Rwandan leaders and called for President Kagame’s prosecution over the death of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana.
Rwanda reacted angrily by cutting all diplomatic ties with France.
Just weeks ago, the Cabinet set up another commission of inquiry chaired by Supreme Court Judge Jean Mutsinzi, to investigate the circumstances surrounding Habyarimana’s plane crash which also killed then Burundian president Cyprien Ntiryamira, a French crew and others.
However, relations between Rwanda and France have lately been slowly warming behind the curtains resulting in a meeting between Foreign Affairs Minister Dr Charles Murigande and his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York in September this year.
For months now, Kouchner has also been expected to visit Rwanda.
Analysts say both sides are still reserved, although some suggest that the new French government under Nicolas Sarkozy could try to repair France’s damaged image on the African continent by restoring relations with Rwanda, among its plans.
The thirteen foreign witnesses who testified during the public auditions conducted by the commission mostly concurred on the fact that the Operation Turquoise was not a humanitarian mission as was claimed by the French.
Luc Pillionel, a Swiss who traveled with French soldiers from Kavumu (DRC) to Kamembe — Cyangugu said that he on several occasions witnessed French soldiers ‘armed to the tooth’ going for operations.
Pillionel, who is married to a Rwandan, had come to rescue his in-laws who were trapped in the country during Genocide.
Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman also testified that on her tour of some camps in the same French zone during the same period, she did not see “anything” showing that French soldiers were offering any humanitarian support.
Altogether, the commission heard at least thirteen foreigners, all from Europe and most of them were journalists.
Among the journalists included two British writers Andrew Wallis and Linda Melvern.
Wallis is the author of ‘Silent accomplice,’ which explored the role plated by France in facilitating the Genocide that was taking place.
However, the commission had difficulty when the Belgian government, invoking its constitution refused to allow serving military officers and government officials to be interviewed by the government.
Belgium however has the highest number of foreigners that testified.
Other Rwandans who testified include senior government officials and Rwanda Defence Forces serving officers.
The six-month commission has had its mandate extended thrice, the most recent being the one- month extension it was given last month, after their third term expired to give commissioners more time to wrap up their work.
Meanwhile, as the commission finished its work, two of its seven commissioners, Dr Jean Damascene Bizimana and Alice Rugira were appointed as vice president and secretary respectively, of the recently formed commission to probe the crash of Habyarimana’s plane.
Copyright © 2007 The New Times. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com).