Since April 1994, the RPF had launched a campaign against genocide, it was engaged in a fierce fight against the genocidal government and has saved the lives of several thousand people doomed to death. During the genocide, the genocidal army, which was suffering setbacks, always turned to Paris for help. The genocidal government considered Operation Turquoise as a response to its requests and France as an opportunity to meet its obligations towards them.
The United Nations Security Council authorized, through its resolution 929 of June 22, 1994 adopted under Chapter VII and on the initiative of France, a so-called humanitarian operation which can use force on the ground. However, this mandate had been refused to UNAMIR, which operated under Chapter VI, and the use of force was prohibited by its mandate. Operation Turquoise was the result of a carefully maintained misunderstanding. Everyone believed that its purpose was to stop the genocide and save the surviving Tutsi. This is what French officials proclaimed and what the press, taken in hand by (SIRPA) – the military information service of the French was responsible for writing.
In fact, as stated in Article 2 of resolution 929 by which the United Nations authorized the operation under Chapter VII, it was a question of contributing impartially “to the security and protection of displaced persons, refugees and civilians at risk in Rwanda.” On that date, most of the Tutsi had died. The displaced, refugees and civilians at risk were the Hutu, of whom more than 100,000 had participated in the massacres.
The operation was intended to be impartial, that is to say, it did not have to take into account the genocide against the Tutsi, since it was not mentioned in the resolution, France fulfilled its mission by defending Hutu, the Rwandan interim government, its army and its militias. Clearly, they wanted to prevent the victory of the RPF, or at least stop its advance to force it to negotiate with Hutu political parties.
1. Operation Turquoise shows the hypocrisy of the United Nations
General Romeo Dallaire had asked for the reinforcement of the mandate of UNAMIR but in vain. To his great surprise, Dallaire was later informed of Operation Turquoise, while the FAR were aware of the proceedings within the UN bodies.
Operation Turquoise was decided by completely ignoring the presence of UNAMIR in Rwanda. The United Nations Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali enthusiastically received the decision to create Operation Turquoise.
This operation was decided almost at the end of the genocide, completely ignoring that more than a million Tutsi had just been exterminated, its objective was to create a humanitarian security zone for the displaced. It should be recalled that these displaced people were pushed by the genocidal regime which used the civilian population as a human shield to accompany them up to Zaïre. "That of rescuing threatened Tutsi seems incidental to the objective, not publicly displayed, of stopping the advancement of the RPF fighters and of maintaining, or even extending the government in a more favourable position for negotiations."
2. L’Opération Turquoise, a response to the request of the genocidal government and its army
When the news of Operation Turquoise was announced by the RTLM, the soldiers at Camp Kigali and in other regions held by the genocidal government, shouted of joy, they believed that France was coming to save them. Jean Kambanda, the Prime Minister of the genocidal government, thought that the French troops came to join forces with the FAR from the western part comprising the regions of Gikongoro, Kibuye and Cyangugu against the RPF. However, he was not wrong, since Operation Turquoise was conceived as a military operation aimed at destroying the RPF and helping the genocidal government.
In his mission report to Paris, from May 9 to 13, Lieutenant-Colonel Ephrem Rwabalinda, mentioned his meeting with General Jean-Pierre Huchon who had told him that telephones for secret communications had already been sent from Ostend and that the French were ready to help. This report implied that Rwabalinda went to Paris to "discuss the French intervention which was being prepared.”
3. Mitterrand wanted an open war to save the genocidal government and its army
The objectives of the French military intervention in Rwanda as well as its methods of implementation were to oppose President Mitterrand against his Prime Minister Balladur. Foreign Minister Juppé would align himself with President Mitterrand's position.
President Mitterrand had planned to intervene in Kigali itself, to divide both the city and the country in two and allow either a recuperation of the FAR or to force negotiations on the positions defended by the French army. This French military intervention, in favour of the FAR and in the midst of the genocide, seemed to have been prepared for some months.
Alison Des Forges reports that French diplomats tasked with defending Operation Turquoise at the Security Council allegedly presented on a map, their intervention area encompassing "All the territory situated to the west of a line which started from Ruhengeri in the north, then descended in a south west direction towards Kigali and ended its course in a south west direction in Butare. This area would have included Gisenyi, where the interim government had taken refuge, as well as the region where Habyarimana was originally from, as well as high-ranking officers of the Rwandan army.
This area, where government forces were concentrated, most of the troops and supplies, would have been an ideal site to launch a counter-offensive.”
Without directly designating President Mitterrand, former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur confirmed the existence of a desire for French military intervention in Kigali. In his hearing before the MP, he declared that it was "true that certain officials had predicted military intervention, particularly in Kigali." Balladur affirmed that with regards to President Mitterrand "there was no question, in his eyes, of punishing the Hutu perpetrators of the genocide and there was no question for me to allow them to go to shelter in Zaire”.
Prime Minister Balladur opposed President Mitterrand's aggressive option and set the following conditions for the deployment of Operation Turquoise, including authorization by the United Nations Security Council, the limitation of the operation in time to a few weeks while waiting for the arrival of UNAMIR. Faced with this opposition of viewpoints, the French army would opt for the application of two visions, one official, that of Prime Minister Balladur and another secret, that of President Mitterrand.
- L’opération Turquoise was a military operation from the start
a) It used impressive human and material resources
To conduct this operation, France aligned a total of 3,060 men from the best units of its army: éléments de la 3e demi-brigade de la Légion étrangère, du 2e régiment étranger d’infanterie, du 2e régiment étranger de parachutistes, du 6e régiment étranger de génie ; éléments du régiment d’infanterie chars de marine ; forces spéciales du RPIMa agissant dans le cadre des « opérations spéciales » (OPS) avec des agents de la GIGN et l’EPIGN, et en parallèle avec des équipes CRAP de la 11e DP et des éléments du 13e RDP ; deux unités du service santé des armées, (un élément médical d’intervention rapide dit EMMIR basé à Cyangugu et la Bioforce basée à Goma) ; éléments issus de la 11e division parachutiste CRAP du 35e RAP ; soutien et transmetteurs du 14e RPCS.
Describing the system put in place, a journalist of de Libération portrayed Turquoise as a group of “elite forces essentially belonging to the land force, […], the air force, the navy and the gendarmery [who] are the best trained, the best equipped […] of the French army, with exceptional means, in terms of firepower, communication and intelligence system”.
French troops were supported by 508 soldiers from seven African countries: Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Chad, Mauritania, Egypt, Niger and Congo. These seemed to serve as an international guarantee for the operation turquoise.
With regards to equipment, they were also super selected. Regarding the most visible part of the air equipment, according to a specialized military magazine, Operation Turquoise deployed on the forward bases of Goma, Bukavu and Kisangani « six C-130 Hercules, nine C-160 Transall, one Falcon-20 and one CASA-235 of liaison.The Air Force has also chartered an Airbus, one Boeing -747 as well as seventeen Antonov-124 Condor and Illyshin II-76
Candid for heavy freight.
On the base of Kisangani will be maintained four Jaguar tactical support planes (from Bangui), four tactical support planes Mirage-F1 CT (of Colmar),four reconnaissance planes Mirage F1- CR (of Reims),and two refuelling planes C-135F».
Considering the operational orders, the armaments and the selected military for Operation Turquoise, all the conditions for a war against the RPF, but unfortunately against the Tutsi in general, were met. In contrast to the French declarations of intent, the description of the French troops in operation Turquoise in Rwanda, all showed an intention to participate in war against the Tutsi in the midst of genocide.
b) L’Opération Turquoise Extended Military Support That France had Given to the Genocidal Regime Since October 1990
Soldiers of operation Turquoise were also alumni from Noroît operation. While public opinion imagined that the aim of the French intervention was to stop the genocide, France sent to Rwanda the soldiers who had trained the FAR for four years and fought alongside them. They were therefore the allies of those who carried out the genocide, the FAR, the militias and those who had committed “auto defense civile”.
Nevertheless, when you reread their public interventions, the French leaders did not say that they were going to stop the genocide. They had said their aim was "to put an end to the massacres", to "protect the populations threatened with extermination", to "ensure the security of the civilian populations who have escaped extermination". According to Mitterrand, it was not a question of stopping the genocide of the Tutsi, it was rather helping the Hutu populations threatened by the RPF army.
Turquoise's real intentions was to preserve a "Hutu land" and to provide military support for the FAR and the criminal Government. Considering the previous circumstances of France's involvement in Rwanda, numerous writings of journalists and writers on this subject, several elements of the report of the Parliamentary Information Mission on Rwanda, lead to the conclusion that Operation Turquoise was the extension of French military support to the genocidal government and its army, the FAR.
Édouard Balladur, in a letter of June 21, 1994 to François Mitterrand, seems to take date and warns the President of the Republic. Among the "conditions for success" of Operation Turquoise, he quotes: "Limit operations to humanitarian actions and not let ourselves go to what would be considered a colonial expedition to the very heart of the territory of Rwanda." As we will see in the publications to follow, France, engaged its army alongside the killers after its deployment on June 23, 1994 in Rwanda.
Done at Kigali on June 22, 2020
Dr BIZIMANA Jean Damascène
National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG)