Rwanda: in France, major work on the Tutsi genocide

The wait, after the controversies. The report of the Research Commission on French Archives relating to Rwanda and the Tutsi genocide (1990-1994), chaired by historian Vincent Duclert, is to be made public on Friday March 26.

Its conclusions, such as access to documents consulted on an exceptional basis by this ten or so researchers, should allow scientific criticism to be exercised, and history to continue to be written.

Heavily criticized, especially for the absence of specialists in the 1994 genocide, Vincent Duclert awaits “To be judged by the results”. A cautious curiosity dominates among the small circle of academic historians working on these massacres which, in a hundred days, claimed a million victims.

→ EXPLANATION. Rwanda: what changes the opening to researchers of the Mitterrand archives

“Few researchers for an immense subject”, summarizes the historian Stéphane Audoin-Rouzeau, specialist in the Great War, struck by the event during a trip to Rwanda in 2008. Too late to become “A front-line researcher”, but soon enough to be done “Ferryman” and “Promote the emergence of research on a subject that will be discussed in a century, he continues. Despite the obstacles, in the last instance, it is research that will trace the path to the truth ”.

New generation in the field

Since the 2010s, a generation of historians, often born after the genocide, has been pursuing research on Rwandan archives and as close as possible to the field. “This generational renewal changes the relationship with the event, underlines Hélène Dumas, who worked on testimonies before Gacaca courts or school notebooks. The genocide is central in French research, while the Anglo-Saxons are mainly interested in the post-genocide state. “

But the forces are lacking. “Investigations are difficult, both psychologically and logistically, and in Rwanda, we are crumbling under piles of archives! “ The opening of French funds will have little influence on its work, as on that devoted to the policy of remembrance in Rwanda or to genocidal women. It will stop discouraging students wishing to work on French involvement.

Genocide and the role of France, one story

He took up the challenge. Since 2008, François Robinet has been working on the history of Franco-Rwandan relations from 1974 to 1994 and on the controversies surrounding the role of France. Faced with writings from journalists and activists, he wanted to prove the “Ability of historians to provide an answer”. Convinced that the history of the genocide and that of the French involvement constitute “Porous dimensions, which must be crossed”.

Derogations, private funds, archives of NGOs or Rwandans, he has built a corpus according to the standards of the discipline, and remains very attentive to possible openings of French funds. “In history, we do not work to the rhythm of the event but to access to sources”, confirms Jean-Pierre Chrétien, whose pioneering work inspires this new generation.

Racist ideology against ethnic divide

Guardian figure, the historian is one of the few specialists in Great Lakes Africa, and more particularly in Burundi, where he went in 1964. Confronted with the massacres of the Hutus in 1972, then of the Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, he never ceased to alert public opinion. “I could not be silent, I had to testify to make people understand. “ Relentlessly, he deconstructed the dominant reading of an ethnic divide, documenting the establishment of a racist ideology, inherited from colonization and reinvested after independence.

Fifty years later, French production owes him a lot. “The French scientific field was built on this heritage. According to this reading, the practices of cruelty put into action a racism inherited from the XIXe century “, notes Florent Piton, who has just defended his thesis on political competition in Rwanda from 1950 to 1994. A long time to invest also, he insists, to clarify the history of the last genocide of the XXe century.


The Duclert commission report

April 5, 2019. Emmanuel Macron creates the Research Commission on French Archives Relating to Rwanda and the Tutsi Genocide (1990-1994).

Chaired by historian Vincent Duclert, this commission has “For the mission of consulting all French archives relating to the genocide, over the period 1990-1994,
in order to analyze the role and commitment of France during this period and to contribute
to a better understanding and knowledge of the Tutsi genocide. This work will in particular aim to help to constitute the historical material necessary for the teaching of this genocide in France. “

The Duclert report will soon be made public by the President of the Republic.

It would be a thousand pages long, without the appendices, and, according to sources having had access to it, it would include “Striking revelations”, would point to “Bankruptcies”, “Intellectual deficiencies”, as well as “Faults” on the side of the French authorities.


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