Genocide in Rwanda: The crimes of French imperialism

Printer-friendly version

The working class needs to remember. Just over a year ago, in March 2003, the USA and Britain launched the war on Iraq. In Europe huge pacifist demonstrations raised the slogan 'No to the war in Iraq'. Pacifist campaigns: instrument of French imperialism

The French state, under the leadership of Jacques Chirac, and with the unanimous support of the left and leftists, was at the forefront of the anti-American ideological campaign. French imperialism thus took on the mantle of pacifism. But this lying propaganda, which continues to be dropped on the working class from a great height, must not be allowed to mask the real face of French imperialism. When it comes to war and barbarism, no imperialism on the planet is an exception to the rule. The French media gave maximum publicity to these pacifist demonstrations � while at the same time doing everything possible to obscure the military policy of France in the Ivory Coast. It was at the very same moment, February 2003, that French imperialism went onto the offensive on the Ivory Coast, with more than 4000 troops. In March of the same year the French army went back into Bangui in Central Africa, pushing these countries a step further into total chaos. This is what the pacifist discourse of the French state is really worth.

The role of French imperialism in Rwanda

We are currently �celebrating� a sad anniversary: ten years ago, French imperialism, under the banner of humanitarianism, re-entered Rwanda in force, armed to the teeth with assault cars at the front. It was to preside over one of the worst cases of genocide in history. According to the official figures between 500,000 and a million people were killed in 100 days, almost unnoticed by the world at large. The French army had waited cynically at the frontiers of Rwanda for the ethnic slaughter to reach its climax before intervening. Meanwhile inside Rwanda �our country�s troops, under orders, had trained the killers who carried out the genocide against the Tutsi. We armed them, encouraged them and, when the day came, provided cover for them. I discovered this story in the Rwandan hills. It was hot, it was summer time. It was wonderful weather, it was magnificent. It was the time of the genocide� (Patrick de Saint Exupery, journalist from Figaro and author of the book L�inavouable: la France au Rwanda; see Le Monde Diplomatique March 2004). It was indeed France which, for a number of years, had been training and arming the local gendarmerie, the Hutu militia, and the Rwandan Armed Forces. It was France which had fully supported the regime of president Habyarimana. From the early 90s Rwanda had become a prize in the geo-strategic game between French imperialism and American imperialism. Rwanda had an obvious importance in this inter-imperialist conflict because it is at the frontier of the zone under French control and the one under US control.

In 1994 American imperialism was trying to weaken French imperialism�s African presence in an irreversible manner. This is why the US had been training the Rwandan Patriotic Front (formed by the Tutsi opposition) in the territory of Uganda since 1993. The military advance of the RPF was imminent. It was at this point that plane carrying Rwandan president Habyarimana and Burundi�s president Ntaryamira was shot down; this was the pretext for unleashing the massacre, which began on 6 April 1994. Eventually the RPF advanced on Kigali and a new regime was installed. France then �had to content itself with creating a �secure humanitarian zone� in the west, towards which all the extremist groups and representatives of the Hutu governing apparatus converged� (Le Monde Diplomatique, March 2004).

This zone was a theatre of terrible slaughter and, as Le Monde Diplomatique points out, France refused to militarily disarm the Hutu death-squads. It also kept well away from arresting those responsible for the genocide, because these were the same people it had controlled from a distance and later sheltered in the Congo.

Meanwhile 300,000 orphans were wandering the country. Cholera and famine were on the rise and rapidly carried off more than 40,000 Hutu refugees, while combat helicopters, Mirages and Jaguars belonging to the French army waited for another opportunity to intervene. The power mainly responsible for this vast death-toll was without doubt French imperialism, which used the ethnic conflict to strike at its US rival. It�s the same French imperialism which today hides behind the ideology of pacifism. The humanitarian alibi: a weapon of war

The humanitarian alibi was used to cover the barbaric policy of France ten years ago. It was used again in 1999 to justify the bombing of Serbia and the military occupation of Kosovo. Today in Kosovo there is a renewal of ethnic conflict, and the French army, as it did in Rwanda, is using the opportunity to increase its presence on the ground. Meanwhile, Tony Blair points to the lack of humanitarian intervention in Rwanda to argue in favour of the Iraq war, telling us that the only hope for countries subjected to ethnic slaughter or mass murder by undemocratic states is the benign intervention of the �civilised� powers. Rwanda, like the Balkans, like Iraq, provides us with proof that there can be nothing benign in the intervention of an imperialist state. On the country, its only result can be to take the �local� barbarism onto a higher level. Unless the world capitalist system is overthrown, the Rwandan genocide is a foretaste of humanity�s future.