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< Turning Points

The Rwandan Crisis Seen through the Eyes of France: Part II


Documents 1–10: Summaries and Links

Document 1 (French)
Document 1 (English)

Date: March 12, 1990
To: French Foreign Ministry
From: [French Ambassador to Rwanda] Georges Martres
Source: Mitterrand Archive
Subject: Official Visit of President Habyarimana to Paris (April 2, 3, and 4, 1990)

Document 2 (French)
Document 2 (English)

Date: March 14, 1990
To: French Foreign Ministry
From: [French Ambassador to Rwanda] Georges Martres
Source: Mitterrand Archive
Subject: Requests for Military Order Likely to be Presented to the President of the French Republic by the Rwandan President at their Meeting on April 3, 1990 (First Part of Two)

Preparing for an official visit to France in April 1990, Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana outlined his political and security concerns to the French ambassador in Kigali, Georges Martres. He also requested military support for his government to counter a threatened invasion by the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), based in Uganda.  In these confidential diplomatic dispatches, Martres explains that Habyarimana is becoming increasingly unpopular at home, forcing him to rely on the Rwandan army and police. Habyarimana requests a new plane and radar equipment to counter the air threat from Uganda and the RPF. According to Martres, he has made similar requests to Belgium over the course of many years, but they have been ignored.

Document 3: (French)
Document 3: (English)

Date: June 20, 1990
To: Franco-African Summit
From: President François Mitterrand
Source: Council for the Liberation and Change in Congo (Website)
Subject: Address to Franco-African Summit, La Baule, France

President Mitterrand’s speech to the Franco-African Summit of June 1990 in the western French town of La Baule represented a defining moment in French African policy. In the aftermath of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin wall, Mitterrand cited democracy as a “universal principle” and urged African leaders to introduce multiparty systems and guarantee freedom of the press. He also stated that French development aid to African countries would be linked to progress toward democracy.

Document 4: (French)
Document 4: (English)

Date: October 7, 1990
To: French Foreign Ministry
From: [French Ambassador to Rwanda] Georges Martres
Source: French Parliamentary Commission
Subject: Situation in Rwanda

Document 5: (French) 
Document 5: (English) 

Date: October 8, 1990
To: President François Mitterrand
From: [Chief of French Defense Staff] Admiral Jacques Lanxade
Source: Mitterrand Archive
Subject: Situation in Rwanda

On October 1, 1990, Tutsi-led rebels from the RPF invaded Rwanda from Uganda. Documents 4 and 5 reflect the French government’s view of the resulting conflict. In a diplomatic cable from Kigali dated October 7, Ambassador Martres urges French military support for President Habyarimana to prevent “domination of the Hutus by the Tutsi minority.” The following day, October 8, the chief of the French defense staff, Admiral Jacques Lanxade, draws the line at direct French involvement in the fighting. He recommends turning down Habyarimana’s request for aerial support and engagement of French ground units but approves the supply of ammunition and rockets to Rwandan government forces.

Document 6: (French) 
Document 6: (English) 

Date: October 15, 1990
To: French Foreign Ministry
From: [French Ambassador to Rwanda] Georges Martres
Source: French Parliamentary Commission
Subject: Analysis of the Situation by the Tutsi Population

Document 7: (French) 
Document 7: (English) 

Date: October 24, 1990
To: French Foreign Ministry
From: [French Ambassador to Rwanda] George Martres and [French Military Attaché] Colonel René Galinié
Source: French Parliamentary Commission
Subject: Assessment of the Political Situation

On October 4, France responded to the RPF attack by rushing 314 French troops to Rwanda under Operation Noroit, ostensibly to protect French citizens. In these dispatches, French officials discuss the threat of the “total elimination” of the Tutsi minority in Rwanda, in response to the RPF invasion. The French military attaché in Rwanda predicts the “likely physical elimination” of Tutsis living inside Rwanda—between 500,000 and 700,000 people—by the seven-million–strong Hutu majority in the event of a successful Tutsi-led invasion from Uganda.

Document 8: (French) 
Document 8: (English) 

Date: January 23, 1991
From: French Council of Ministers Minutes
Source: Mitterrand Archive
Subject: Discussion on Foreign Affairs

French military action in Rwanda is ostensibly aimed at protecting European citizens trapped in the northern town of Ruhengeri, which is under siege by the Tutsi-led RPF. At a cabinet meeting, President Mitterrand depicts the fighting as a conflict between Francophone Rwanda and Anglophone Uganda. He says that Ugandan president Museveni should be told that “it is not normal that the Tutsi minority wants to impose its will on the [Hutu] majority” in Rwanda.

DOCUMENT 9 (French)
DOCUMENT 9 (English)

Date: April 22, 1991
To: President François Mitterrand
From: [Presidential Advisor] Gilles Vidal
Source: Mitterrand Archive
Subject: Interview with Mr. Juvénal Habyarimana, President of the Republic of Rwanda

President Habyarimana paid an official visit to France in April 1991. In return for French military and diplomatic support, Mitterrand urges the Rwandan leader to push ahead with democratization efforts, respect human rights, and negotiate a political settlement with the Tutsi-led rebels. He also calls for the peaceful return of an estimated half a million Tutsi refugees, forced out of Rwanda following the Hutu-led “revolution” of 1959 and independence from Belgium in 1962.

DOCUMENT 10 (French) 
DOCUMENT 10 (English) 

Date: May 23, 1991
To: President François Mitterrand
From: [Military Advisor to Mitterrand] General Christian Quesnot
Source: Mitterrand Archive
Subject: Rwanda—Presence of Surface-to-Air Missiles

President Mitterrand’s military advisor, General Quesnot, reports that an offensive by “Ugandan-Tutsi” rebels in northeast Rwanda has been “neutralized” by the Rwandan army. He reports that a SAM-16 missile, with a range of five kilometers (three miles), has been captured by Rwandan troops, marking a “new and dangerous step in foreign assistance to the rebels.”

Next: Documents 11–20: Summaries and Links