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Operation Turquoise
Operation Turquoise

Operation Turquose

Rwanda is a country in central Africa, near Lake Victoria and surrounded by Lake Kivu. The country is part of the African Great Lakes Region. It is a tiny country located between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Its capital is Kigali.

Rwanda is known as the Land of a Thousand Hills because of its geography, composed of hills tight against each other. The country has the appearance of many steep and wooded giant hills. Because of this geographical particularity, Rwanda was difficult to access and was abandoned by the major European colonial powers to other countries more accessible and more economically "interesting", such as Uganda. This explains why until 1950, Rwanda lived cut off from the rest of the world.

The Rwandan population is composed of two groups, the Hutus and the Tutsis. The Hutus were the farmers, the Tutsi were the owners of the animals. It is important to know that in Africa, the ownership of animals is a very special power. The Tutsis and the Hutus were living in a feudal system (until 1960!) where the Hutus were serving the Tutsis. The Hutus were responsible for cultivating the land. They all spoke the same language, Kinyarwanda.

When Belgian colonizers arrived, they were faced with the Tutsis' desire to have independence. Playing with ethnic rivalries, they overthrew the Tutsi government and replaced it with a Hutu government. The Hutus, who were slaves for so long, finally got the power and the possibility of revenge. They massacred the Tutsis, who were forced into exile toward Uganda. From there, the Tutsis prepared their revenge by creating the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). This Army first began working with mercenary services for other armies, including Uganda's, where rebel forces were looking for alliances to overthrow dictators. Because of that, the RPF had tremendous military experience.

Operation TurquoseMeanwhile, the Hutus government signed agreements on military cooperation with France. The reasons and the exact degree of involvement France had are extremely complex and the facts have not been clearly established, the archives are still kept secret. The docu-fiction Opération Turquoise presented on Eurochannel deals with this issue.

In 1990, the RPF crossed the Rwandan border. The Tutsis army was much more trained than the Hutus army because they had practiced for years in guerrilla wars. The army would have won easily if not for the French and Belgian militaries helping the Hutus. The Tutsis were pushed across the border. The Hutus government took the opportunity to massacres the Tutsi population. By that time, the French ambassador in Rwanda warned the French government about the possibility of genocide. The Hutu government implemented the Hutu Power, an organization comprised by the Interahamwe militia and a propaganda radio station, Radio Mille Collines.

On April 6, 1994, the President of Rwanda (Hutu) was murdered. The responsibility for the murder was never established. It would serve as the pretext for the Rwandan genocide, one of the most horrible in the history of humanity. Indeed, there are two theories about it:

Operation Turquose- It was committed by the Tutsis. This was what the Hutu government said, laying the grounds for engaging the genocide ;
- It was committed by radical Hutus to eliminate a moderate Hutu president who advocated peace with the Tutsis and use it as an excuse to start the massacre. International opinion generally believes this second theory.

The genocide began immediately. For three months, day after day, hour after hour, the voice of Radio Mille Collines guided the killings, urging people to murder, announcing where the Tutsis survivors were. Not only were the Interahamwe militias involved in the genocide, but the entire population (including children) was slaughtered with unimaginable ferocity. The weapons used were mostly machetes or clubs studded with nails. The targets were not only the Tutsis but also moderate Hutus who refused to take part in the massacre. The roads were blocked so that fugitives could not escape. Ultimately 800,000 Tutsis were exterminated.

Rwandans have filed complaints of «complicity in genocide» against the French soldiers of the Opération Turquoise, the operation launched during the genocide whose objective was to "end the civil war by restoring authority to the Hutu government." The "security area" provided by Opération Turquoise would be the last to be released by the FRP, and the one where the killings lasted the longest.

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