French soldiers arrived in Nyarushishi on June 23, 1994. Officially, Nyarushishi camp had the most important humanitarian objective of Operation turquoise as a whole. But the testimony of refugees and some Interahamwe who controlled the vicinity of the camp rather say that the massacres of Tutsi by the Interahamwe continued and that the French soldiers committed several acts of rape on survivors whom they were supposed to protect.
1. THE STRUCTURE OF NYARUSHISHI CAMP AND THE KILLING OF THE TUTSI IN THIS CAMP
Nyarushishi was a former Burundian refugee camp in 1993. Tutsi who had been evacuated from the City in Cyangugu, and other genocide survivors from elsewhere such as Mibilizi, Shangi, Nyamasheke, Kibogora, ...were brought in the same camp.
The French entered Cyangugu on 23/6/1994 and immediately went to Nyarushishi to show that they had come to rescue people. They needed information to show their local television because the media was criticizing the French government for sending troops to Rwanda to help the genocidal government.
The French used tricks to expose the Nyarushishi camp as evidence that they had come to Rwanda to rescue the victims, yet it was to hide the true face of Turquoise to help the criminal government. That is why they had asked the Saviours Government not to close the Nyarushishi camp so that the international media, especially those in France, can use it to portray the positive image.
In Nyarushishi there have been a number of atrocities including the rape of girls by the French. Since 2005, some of the girls who were forcibly raped in Nyarushishi and Murambi have filed lawsuits in France over the crime. The media asked former French military officials in Cyangugu what they thought of the allegations and they pointed out that it was possible that the crime had been committed.
Colonel Didier TAUZIN, a senior COS commander who arrived in Nyarushishi on June 23, 1994, said the following to La Croix in 2011: “I did not come across with such news during the turquoise period. We were with a lot of journalists and none of them had said those things. But I cannot conclude one hundred percent that there was no such thing for may be an individual military.”
As for Colonel Jacques HOGARD, commander of the French army in Cyangugu during the Turquoise period, he told the Causette newspaper the following in 2011: “it is possible to have those who break the law. If it happened, it was done by a few at their own will, not by our system. I was once informed that the Legionnaires had stolen beer crest. But I don't believe there was a rape of girls.”
This statement itself is false. If the commander of the French army admitted that his army was stealing beer crests, it would mean that they were robbing them from the population. How could they be afraid of raping girls if they were thieves to the point of stealing beer?These statements show that TAUZIN and HOGARD were well aware of the crimes committed by the soldiers under their command.
General Jean-Claude LAFOURCADE, the former commander-in-chief of the whole of Turquoise, seems to believe that there was a forced rape of women and girls in the Nyarushishi and Murambi camps perpetrated by their soldiers but again seems to undermine the information by saying: “No serious crime was committed. No forced rape was committed in general.” It is understood that he acknowledged that forced rape of girls had been committed but reduced its severity by relying only on non-compliance with the guidelines of the military administration and in general.
In addition, Colonel Thibault made statements expressing his solidarity with the Interahamwe and other genocidal people in Nyarushishi. A good example is a statement made during the interview with the New York Times journalist Raymond BONNER on 28/06/1994 who asked him why the Interahamwe continue to surround the Nyarushishi camp and that the French had not evicted them. Thibault replied: "We do not have the mission to disarm the militias Interahamwe. It was published in the New York Times on June 29, 1994.
Another tragedy is the way the Red Cross staff had been involved in the massacre of Tutsi who were being evacuated from the Nyarushishi camp. The most notable was HATEGEKIMANA Saadi, who handed over Tutsi to the Interahamwe to kill them and was a Red Cross worker.
2. THE TUTSI WERE MASSACRED BY THE INTERAHAMWE IN FRONT OF FRENCH MILITARIES SUPPOSED TO PROTECT THEM IN THE CAMP OF NYARUSHISHI
The Nyarushishi camp security circle was made up of French military guard posts, lined with a larger concentric circle of interahamwe and Rwandan gendarms roadblocks. Refugees received food but had to go out to get firewood outside the camp.
A witness said: “One day, three young people were flushed out of the tea plantations by Interahamwe and ran towards the camp, hunted by the Interahamwe. They managed to enter Nyarushishi camp. The gendarm position commander who was there entered the camp, took them and brought them. The French were there and attended the scene without doing anything. We never saw the three young people again. "
For several survivors of the Nyarushishi camp, “[…] The French were accomplices of the Interahamwe in the killings and torture committed on the Tutsi. Most of the Tutsi who were coming to take refuge in the camp reached into the hands of the Interahamwe since they absolutely had to pass through the roadblocks held by the latter. […].”
An interahamwe said that French soldiers asked them to kill anyone who wanted to enter the camp.
“(…) We had a roadblock about 1000m from the French tent. On this blockade, we killed many people and the French came to ask us what was going on. We explained to them that we had killed Tutsi and they told us to ensure that no one else entered the camp and that those who came later should be killed. Following this instruction, we killed a woman with her young daughter and a young man. I did not know them, they said they came from a place called K’Uwinteko. We also killed the Tutsi who were leaving the camp to get firewood, including Charles, son of Sembeba. After killing them, we threw them into a mass grave near the roadblock. The French came to see what we were doing and told us that we are real soldiers. As a reward, they gave us combat rations. They also accompanied us on night patrols. After the RPF victory, the French prohibited us from continuing to massacre the Tutsi in order to prevent the RPF from taking revenge. Instead, they advised us and invited us to flee, making signs to us that the RPF would cut our throats, and they became very angry with the people hanging around the houses. "
3. FRENCH MILITARIES HAVE RAPED TUTSI WOMEN WHO HAD TAKEN REFUGE IN THE NYARUSHISHI CAMP
Several rape victims claim that they were raped by French soldiers in the Nyarushishi camp. “[…] The French took turns raping Claudine. She was between 14 and 15 years old in 1994, and she was so traumatized that she had turned crazy. They also raped Oscar's sister Umulisa. They sexually tortured them by putting chilli in their genitals. They raped a lot of girls, only we don't know their names.” French soldiers "also raped young girls whom they had evacuated from EAV Ntendezi, they came to fetch them from the camp. In order to escape, they went to sleep in other tents so that they could not find them. "
French soldiers raped girl outside the Nyarushishi camp at the Kamarampaka stadium. A victim says that: "The French installed at the Kamarampaka stadium also raped Tutsi girls and women during Operation Turquoise. They specifically had charged us with looking for Tutsi girls or women for them and some victims of their rapes survived. It was necessary to bring them Tutsi girls, who they said would not cause them any problems if people learned that they had raped them, and it was strictly forbidden to bring them Hutu girls. The first time, I brought them two 14 or 15-year-old girls to the Kamarampaka stadium. The first one, whom we had found in the Mururu cemetery, was called M Béata. As we knew she was Tutsi, we took her and brought her to the Kamarampaka stadium where French soldiers raped her. Then they handed her back to us begging us not to kill her. "
4. FRENCH MILITARIES PRACTICED SEXUAL SLAVERY IN THE NYARUSHISHI CAMP ON TUTSI WOMEN
Several Tutsi women have been victims of sexual slavery in Nyarushishi camp. French soldiers committed systematic rapes of Tutsi women whom they had kept during their presence in Nyarushishi camp. A Survivor of Nyarushishi testifies:
"(...) The French arrived in the afternoon and Bavugamenshi asked us to welcome them warmly while dancing. When they arrived, the French went around the camp tents taking photos. After three days, they identified the girls' shelters. On the fourth day, at nightfall, those who had identified them returned with other Frenchmen to take the girls whom they brought into the tents to rape them.
(...) Personally, I had the worst rape experience. After stripping me naked, they raped me in groups of four at the same time and took turns. (…). I was with other women, they released us at four in the morning to bring us back the next day. Sometimes they came to pick us up in the morning and came back again in the evening. When we tried to hide, they organized a committee responsible for finding us everywhere and bringing us back. (…) This situation lasted for the entire period that they stayed in Nyarushishi camp. (…) Because of these savage and permanent acts which they made me undergo, I subsequently had serious gynaecological complications: I had a painful infection in the uterus. When I remembered that they had added to what I had been subjected to by the Interahamwe, I lost my mind and wanted to kill myself. The mere fact of having a dependent child held me back. "
5. TUTSI IN NYARUSHISHI CAMP WERE RESCUED BY COLONEL INNOCENT BAVUGAMENSHI
The fact that all the Tutsi were not killed by the Interahamwe in Nyarushishi, was influenced by Colonel Innocent BAVUGAMENSHI who led the gendarmery in Cyangugu. He refused to commit the genocide and took the gendarms that he trusted and instructed them to protect the Nyarushishi camp, and fought with the Interahamwe until the French arrived. He died in the aftermath of the Genocide and he had joined the army of Rwandan government of unity.
The example of criminal behaviour of the French military in the camp of Nyarushishi shows that the real intentions of Turquoise were everything except humanitarian; Operation Turquoise is the extension of the French military's support to the genocidal government and its military, the FAR. Nyarushishi is the first to be highlighted for the criminal acts, but other areas like Murambi, Bisesero were areas of death and torture of Tutsi under the responsibility of the French military.
Done at Kigali on June 23, 2020
Dr BIZIMANA Jean Damascène
National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG)