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French Rwanda genocide documents not complete, activists warn

media Rwanda President Kagame and his wife in Kigame on March 7 2015. AFP PHOTO/STEPHANIE AGLIETTI

Activists have welcomed the French government's decision to declassify archive documents relating to the 1994 Rwandan genocide but said it does no go far enough. "Some documents still have to be declassified," Alain Ghautier, the head of French NGO Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda, commented on Wednesday.

The papers, essentially official documents from the president’s office, span 1990-1995, a period during which France's role has attracted controversy.

The decision comes on the 21st anniversary of the start of the Rwandan genocide in which 800,000 people were killed.

Dossier: Rwanda remembers genocide 20 years later

 “The declassification of these archives is good news for us, as well as for the Rwandans,” Gauthier explains. “However, we should wait to know the content of these documents to see if they are interesting.”

“It’s a good step but if this had been done 10 years ago we would have said it was courageous. Today my first reaction is to say ‘finally’,” comments André Guichaoua, a sociologist and Rwanda specialist. 

The declassified papers, which include documents from diplomatic and military advisers, will be available to both researchers and victims' groups.

But the contents of the documents as well as the date of their declassification remain unknown. Gauthier hopes “these documents will shed light on the Tutsi genocide”.

But a lot of documents concerning France’s role in Rwanda are still secret, he points out.

“This won’t stop us from asking for the declassification of every document that is classified. There are others documents still classified, the ones about the French army in particular.”

The announcement is also seen by analysts as an attempt by President François Hollande to improve relations with Rwanda.

Ties between the two countries have been strained since Rwandan President Paul Kagame accused Paris of complicity in the genocide because of its support of the Hutu nationalist government that carried out the mass killings, mainly of ethnic Tutsis.

Green MP Noël Mamère says it is time we get the truth on what happened in Rwanda.

"This genocide killed a million people between April and July 1994 and it’s clear now, after the fact-finding mission conducted in 1998, historical research, officials documents, those emerging today are likely to prove ... not a complicity [of the French state] but a case of blindness of the French state on what was one of the greatest genocides of the twentieth century," he said on Monday.

Still, Alain Gauthier thinks will never completely understand what happened in Rwanda.

“It’s going be very difficult to understand completely what happened in Rwanda. A big number of gray areas remain” he regrets. “We’ll never know all the truth.”

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