French prosecutors have requested the end of a years-long investigation into allegations of involvement of France’s peacekeeping troops in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
The period in question, between April and May, 1994, marked a critical stage in the violence in which an estimated 800,000 people were slaughtered.
Now, French investigative magistrates are in charge of making a definitive decision on an issue, which has bedeviled relations between Paris and Kigali for over a quarter of a century .
On Monday, prosecutors concluded that the investigation failed to establish evidence that French forces were involved in crimes of complicity of genocide and complicity of crimes against humanity.
The probe did not show any potential support from French forces during the massacres, consent or evidence that the military refrained from intervening when facing such crimes, the prosecutors’ statement explained.
The investigation had been opened in 2005 after six complaints had been filed by Rwandan nationals accusing the UN-backed, French-led military intervention “Operation Turquoise”, of involvement in the genocide.
Monday’s announcement by the prosecutors comes after French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent efforts to improve relations with Rwanda, following decades of tensions over Paris’ alleged complicit attitude before and during the genocide.
A March report, which was commissioned by Mr. Macron, concluded that French authorities had been “blind” to the preparations for genocide and then reacted too slowly to appreciate the extent of the killings and to respond to them.
But last month, a report from the Rwandan government said the French authorities bear “significant” responsibility for “enabling a foreseeable genocide”.
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Rwanda’s Hutu president, Juvenal Habyari-Mana and his Burundian counterpart was shot down as it headed to Tanzania for peace talks with mainly Tutsi rebels.
The death of the president sparked an uprising by the majority Hutus, during which hundreds of thousands of minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred.
Twenty-seven years after the killings, Rwanda’s Tutsi-led government, whose forces had intervened to end the slaughter in July, 1994, still accuses France and the rest of the international community of turning a blind eye to the “extermination” of the minority Tutsi.
France, led by President Francois Mitterrand, had very close ties to the erstwhile Hutu-dominated government, and has often been accused of providing weapons and logistics to the former regime, despite evidence that a genocide against the Tutsis was in the offing.