COVER-UP: ‘Hutu Power’ & The French Connection – By Tom Ndahiro

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  • “…France’s support to the perpetrators of the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, is almost always reported as an accusation by Rwanda, which is denied by France. Yet the most basic of research shows that this support amounted to conscious complicity in genocide. The support was not only material, political and diplomatic, but, it went as far as helping to form the intellectual basis for the genocide. Rwanda does not accuse France. Historical facts accuse France”

‘Hutu Power’ And The French Connection

By: Tom Ndahiro

France’s support to the perpetrators of the genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda, is almost always reported as an accusation by Rwanda, which is denied by France. Yet the most basic of research shows that this support amounted to conscious complicity in genocide

The support was not only material, political and diplomatic, but, it went as far as helping to form the intellectual basis for the genocide. Rwanda does not accuse France. Historical facts accuse France. Rwanda is guilty only of inconveniently pointing them out.

Twenty-five years ago, last month, on 28th February 1993 a high level delegation sent by then President French President Francois Mitterrand, arrived in Rwanda. The two emissaries were Marcel Debarge, French Minister for Cooperation and Mitterrand’s advisor Dominique Pin.

Soon after their arrival, Minister Debarge and Pin met representatives of opposition parties, Republican Democratic Movement (MDR) Social Democratic Party (PSD) Liberal Party (PL) and Christian Democratic Party (PDC). He had a key message to all of them: put aside their political differences with then President Juvenal Habyarimana’s ruling party, the National Republican Movement for Democracy and Development (MRND).

Debarges had come with a mission to form what he termed a “common front” against the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). And this common front would be along ethnic lines. Without a single exception, all Rwandans who met Debarge, became agents of genocide, and all felt confident of moral support from Paris.

Debarge’s call for a common front was a re-enforcement of a policy from France that had been put in place close to three years earlier. In October 1990, the French Ambassador to Rwanda, George Martres advised both his, and the Rwandan government that the Habyarimana government should appeal to “Hutu Unity”, rather than national unity, arguing that the idea of national unity would favour the RPF, whose clearly stated objective was Rwandan national unity.

“Hutu Unity” on the other hand could be presented as a front against “Tutsi hegemony”.  Ambassador Martres’s advice to the ‘Hutu’ was echoed by the extremist Kangura magazine. Kangura called for such “Unity” in the planning, and execution of the genocide.

In December of 1990 for instance, the Magazine published the Ten Hutu Commandments. The ninth commandment called on all the Hutu, wherever they were, to have unity and solidarity and be concerned with the fate of their Hutu brothers, and it urges that “all the Hutu inside and outside Rwanda must constantly look for friends and allies for the Hutu cause, starting with their Bantu brothers; must constantly counteract the Tutsi propaganda; and, must be firm and vigilant against their common Tutsi enemy.’

The tenth commandment, reminds every Muhutu of the so called revolution of 1959, the Referendum of 1961, which intended to recognise the Hutu as the legitimate rulers of Rwanda, and commands that these “must be taught to every Muhutu at every level.  Every Hutu must spread this ideology widely.  Any Muhutu who persecutes his brother Muhutu for having read, spread and taught this ideology is a traitor.”

In an address to his party’s ‘Extraordinary Congress’ on 28th April 1991, President Habyarimana would follow Martres’s recommendation, and obey Kangura’s commandments. He called on the party to consolidate Hutu Unity to defeat the Tutsi “enemy”, which he said was already united.

It is out of these ideologies that the concept of “Hutu Power” would emerge. It was coined after the meeting with Debarge, by Froduald Karamira, who had participated in the discussion. One of the founders of the MDR (1991) and the party’s Second Vice-President, Karamira, first popularised the concept in an incendiary speech at a political rally in Nyamirambo on 23rd October 1993. In a variation of Debarge’s words, Karamira told his audience that “the Hutu have to unite against the danger represented by anti-democratic Tutsi”.

It was a classic colonial divide and rule strategy. To consolidate their control of Rwanda, France sought to strengthen the murderous ethnic creed of Parmehutu, fully conscious of where it would lead.

Nothing, not even perpetuation of a genocide ideology would stand in the way of that control and influence. “In such countries, genocide is not so important”, Francois Mitterrand declared. Indeed for him, genocide was not so important, but a normal political undertaking. He was after all a man who collaborated with the Nazis, and fight with the resistance.

France’s interest in Rwanda begins in 1975. It is then they began military cooperation with Rwanda, arming and training the Rwandan army, and even gifting Habyarimana a private jet. The colonial power Belgium found itself side-lined, and its former power and influence transferred to Paris. France would however continue the divisive policies of the Belgian colonialists. They were quick to seize on Parmehutu as a means of that control.

The Party for the Emancipation of Hutu (PARMEHUTU), was created in September 1959 by a group of Hutu intellectuals, under the supervision of Andre Perraudin—who was a Bishop and the head of the Catholic Church in Rwanda but a de facto head of the colonial soft-power in Rwanda.

The chosen leader, Gregory Kayibanda would become the first President of the Rwandan Republic. Like almost all of his colleagues, Kayibanda was a Seminarian who answered to the Catholic hierarchy in Rwanda.

In 1957, the so called Hutu Manifesto was published under the supervision of Perraudin and two other priests, Arthur Dejemmeppe, Chanoine Ernotte. The Manifesto defined Rwanda not as a nation but, a country divided into distinct racial groups, which it claimed cannot even cohabit. The three men in the cloth would all be accomplices in the first massacres of Tutsi in 1959 up to the early 1960s.

In a direct quotation of 19th Century British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli speaking about the differences between the rich and the poor, Kayibanda substitutes Hutu and Tutsi for rich and poor, to declare, “The Hutu and Tutsi are two nations between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy, who are ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets”.

It was this ideology which would be used to justify the first genocidal massacres in 1959, and one that the French understood and fully embraced.

After the coup which brought Habyarimana to power in 1973, PARMEHUTU was replaced by the new party, created by Habyarimana, MRND. The new party talked of Peace, Unity and Development, but, in reality it was PARMEHUTU in different clothes. Rather than PARMEHUTU’s hard line between ethnic groups MRND talked of a quota system.

The quota system however would continue to discriminate against the Tutsi and in favour of Hutu. In his book, The Rwanda Crisis: History of a genocide, Gerard Prunier talks of the MRND as “respectable Hutu sepremacists…official practitioners of internationally approved racism”.

It is a racist system that France well understood and supported, as long it ensured the defeat of the RPF, and their ideas of unity among Rwandans, an idea that left no role for France, or any colonial power.

Adopting the language of Martres, Kangura suggested that politicians who didn’t subscribe to the Hutu Unity, should be seen as traitors. The consequence of what they urged could not have escaped their attention.

The few opposition politicians like Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, Judge Joseph Kavaruganda, Frederic Nzamurambaho, Faustin Rucogoza, Ngango Felicien, Boniface Ngulinzira and several others who would not toe this line, were murdered.

Simon Bikindi is a genocidaire gifted as adroit lyricist. Bikindi who was convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) put Paris and Parmehutu’s Hutu unity to song. In Akabyutso, or awakening, which was popularised as “Nanga Abahutu”, I hate the Hutu, he sings, “I hate the Hutu who does not hate the Tutsi…the Hutu who has cast off his Hutu identity (Ibyihuture)…” Paris will have approved the rhythm.

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