Former French prime minister Edouard Balladur has rejected findings of a recent investigation that said Paris failed to help stop the Rwandan genocide. In an interview with RFI/France 24, he said that in 1994, he saved France from becoming an ally of Rwanda's Hutu government, refusing a military operation in Kigali he says was supported by the inner circle of then president François Mitterand.
According to Balladur, when the genocide began in the spring of 1994, "all those who advocated intervention by the French army were, in fact, favourable to the Hutu government," and wanted to support the régime in Kigali against the Tutsi forces of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by Paul Kagame.
"I was extremely hostile to this solution because it would have taken on the appearance of a colonial expedition," Balladur told RFI/France24.
The centre-right Balladur served as Prime Minister under Socialist President Mitterrand during the so-called "cohabitation" (involving a left-wing president and a right-wing government) between 1993 and 1995.
According to the United Nations, the genocide claimed the lives of over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The massacre continued over 100 days between April and July 1994.
Admiration for Operation Turquoise
Balladur underlined that it was unfair to criticise France, given that the United Nations and other countries had failed to intervene to prevent the massacres.
"I did my utmost to ensure that France would not be blamed for being passive and indifferent," Balladur said, adding that he was "full of admiration" for what French peacekeepers had achieved.
France eventually intervened in Rwanda in June 1994 when the UN-mandated Operation Turquoise was launched in a bid to end the killings.
The former Prime Minister also claims to have "put an end to the supply of arms" to Rwanda upon his arrival in Matignon in March 1993.
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Question remains on Habyarimana's assassination
"I do not claim that everything we did was done well in good time," added Balladur, while reiterating that France had been alone in engaging in Rwanda.
When asked about who was behind the 6 April attack on the plane carrying Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana - the event which triggered the genocide - Balladur replied: "I do not know".
This question has poisoned relations between Paris and Kigali for more than 25 years, against a background of claims of French military complicity in the training of Hutu militia, and allegations that France facilitated safe passage for "génocidaires" through south-west Rwanda into the neighbouring DRC.