France “bears significant responsibility” for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the Rwandan genocide of 1994 because it remained “unwavering in its support” for its allies even though officials knew that the massacre was in preparation, according to one. report commissioned by Kigali.

The accusation is the latest in the ongoing dispute between Paris and the small East African country over the role played by France before and during the massacres.

France has long been accused of not doing enough to stop the genocide.

The 600-page report, written by the American law firm Levy Firestone Muse, qualifies France as a “collaborator” of the extremist Hutu regime which orchestrated the murders of around 800,000 people, mainly of the Tutsi minority.

The report, which was based on millions of pages of documents and interviews with more than 250 witnesses, found no evidence that French officials or personnel were directly involved in the assassination of Tutsis.

It follows the publication last month of a separate investigation into the same events commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron.

France led Operation Turquoise, a military-humanitarian intervention launched under a UN mandate between June and August 1994. Its detractors believe that it was in fact aimed at supporting the genocidal Hutu government.

The French investigation concluded that France had been blinded by its colonial attitude towards Africa in the face of the events leading up to the genocide and that it therefore bore a “grave and crushing” responsibility, but was not not an accomplice in the genocide.

The two detailed reports could mark a turning point in relations between the two countries, despite their contrasting conclusions.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta said this small but strategic country of 13 million people was ready for a “new relationship” with France.

“Perhaps the most important thing in this process is that these two commissions analyzed the historical facts, analyzed the archives made available to them and came to a common understanding of this past,” he said. -he declares. “From there, we can build that strong relationship.”

Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda since 2000, hailed the recent French inquiry as “an important step towards a common understanding of what happened”, but said that a decades-long effort by France to evade his liability had caused “significant damage”.

Kagame came to power following the genocide after leading Tutsi rebel forces in Rwanda and overthrowing the extremist Hutu regime.

Rwanda and France severed diplomatic relations in 2006 after a Parisian judge accused Kagame and nine aides of downing former President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane in April 1994 – the catalyst for the massacre. Rwanda has dismissed the charges.

The two countries finally restored diplomatic relations in November 2009.

In May, Félicien Kabuga, a former businessman believed to have helped finance the genocide, was arrested on the outskirts of Paris by French police working with a UN tribunal.

But in July, a Paris court of appeal upheld a decision by end a long investigation in the plane crash that killed Habyarimana, with whom Paris had maintained close ties. This investigation aggravated the Rwandan government because it targeted several people close to Kagame for their alleged role, accusations they denied.

Hours after Habyarimana’s death, extremist Hutu militias began to systematically murder Tutsi and moderate Hutus, on a scale and with brutality that shocked the world.

The new report alleges that in the years leading up to the genocide, “French officials armed, advised, trained, equipped and protected the Rwandan government, disregarding the Habyarimana regime’s commitment to dehumanization and, in ultimately, the destruction and death of the Tutsi in Rwanda. . “

The French authorities also pursued “France’s own interests, in particular the strengthening and expansion of France’s power and influence in Africa”, and in April and May 1994, at the height of the genocide, French officials “did nothing to stop” the massacres, the report says.

“The cover-up continues even so far,” the report adds, saying the French authorities have refused to cooperate with their investigation or to hand over critical documents relevant to their investigation.