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October 12, 2023 French

8 000 à 9 000 réfugiés du camp de Nyarushishi sont depuis hier [23 juin] sous la protection de 40 soldats français

Card Number 31807

Bilalian, Daniel
Staes, Isabelle
Manier, Stéphane
Duquesne, Benoît
Boussié, Laurent
Cathala, Jérôme
Harrouard, Philippe
24 juin 1994
Time zone
Journal de 13 heures [10:51]
8 000 à 9 000 réfugiés du camp de Nyarushishi sont depuis hier [23 juin] sous la protection de 40 soldats français
À Kigali, le FPR mène depuis cette nuit une très grosse offensive d'artillerie.
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- French soldiers launched their operation to rescue the populations threatened with massacre in Rwanda from their rear base, at the border, in Zairian territory.
- Isabelle Staes, who is in the first French relief column engaged in Rwandan territory: "The reception is triumphant here. The population applauds, acclaims the French troops. We shout 'Vive la France', we brandish blue-white-red flags. In fact, it's not very surprising since we are in a government zone. So the French soldiers are welcomed a bit like saviors. And we even met Rwandan soldiers from the regular army who told us this morning: 'That's it, France is there. It will restore peace.' […] We are in Nyarushishi in the largest Tutsi refugee camp in western Rwanda. ten kilometers from Cyangugu. And in the middle of the bush there are 8 to 9,000 Tutsi refugees here who therefore fled the massacres. And since yesterday [June 23] they have been under the protection of the French soldiers, about forty men from the 11th parachute division of Toulouse. The camp is really huge and all these refugees are piled up in tents. They are supplied and cared for by the Red Cross because many suffer from dysentery. And above all they feel, they say, a little safer now. […] The French soldiers arrived here yesterday [June 23]. So they have already made contact with the Tutsi. And besides Colonel Thibaut, who is in charge of the operation here, told us that when he arrived, the Tutsi were suspicious since we know the friendships, the support of France for President Habyarimana. So in fact the Tutsi were wary and thought maybe the soldiers were actually coming against us. Of course all that recovered and then it's going very, very well now. We followed the colonel this morning and everything is fine now. But the soldiers are outside the camp, around the camp. […] We do not feel any danger. If there were a lot of roadblocks manned by extremist Hutu militias here a short time ago, there are no longer any. We were able to move around freely. And as far as the RPF is concerned, we are all the same about a hundred kilometers from the front line. So we can always fear infiltrations but for the moment everything is going well".
- Provocative gestures of these Zairian children: there will be a fight. Gestures immediately stopped by the soldiers in charge of security at Goma airport. Also immediately contradicted by the calm of the French soldiers, Operation Turquoise is and will be humanitarian. And the first missions are made to immediately prove it.
- French troops penetrated only about ten kilometers into Rwandan territory. Leaving Bukavu in Zaire, they went exactly to the other side of the border in the small town of Cyangugu. Objective: to protect 8,000 Tutsi refugees in three or four camps, to take the wounded to the field hospital set up at the border on the Zairian side.
- Another mission envisaged in the north this time, still from a Zairian rear base, Goma: patrolling the Gisenyi region. But for the moment no French soldier has apparently crossed the border.
- Two things still make these soldiers cautious: the 2,500 men planned for this operation are not yet all on the job. The device is therefore not fully operational. On the other hand, it must be shown that the goal is not to support the Hutu or Tutsi troops who clash on the ground. So choose clearly civilian, humanitarian objectives, far from the capital Kigali and the front lines in general.
- Benoît Duquesne: "I'm in Bukavu. That's where the column left that Isabelle Staes was telling you about earlier. You have to understand that there are several operations going on at the same time. apart from the one Isabelle followed this morning, there is another column which goes up from the town of Cyangugu, which goes up along the lake which forms the border between Zaire and Rwanda, and whose mission is to go as far as Kibuye and see if there are any humanitarian problems there. In other words, they do what they call 'humanitarian intelligence'. Their task is to try to see if there are or over there populations or islets where people would be in difficulty. In this case, they would bring them assistance. And then there is another mission which also left by road, towards the South this time, towards Bugarama, with the same objectives and the same imperatives. And finally one last thing: helicopters left earlier, around 10 a.m., from here, to go directly to Kibuye, to try to see how in particular passed the missions of the nuns. Because there are several missions of nuns there and it is not clear in what situation they find themselves".
- Laurent Boussié: "Last night there was a very, very big offensive, a very big artillery preparation here in Kigali, which stopped around 7 a.m., 7:30 a.m. this morning. And the offensive seems to have resumed around 11 a.m. Currently there is intense fighting in the city and there is very intense fighting around the Red Cross hospital where all medical personnel are sheltered. A shell even fell there on the room where the wounded are being sorted. We have no information yet on the number of people who have been affected. But it seems indeed, and it is rare for an operation to start in the morning, that "there may not be the final offensive, but in any case a very big offensive that only from time to time can be stopped by the fatigue of the men and the lack of ammunition. Because the logistical circuits for bringing in the weapons are still quite difficult […] This morning the RPF had organized a demonstration where there were about 2,500 people who were demonstrating against the French presence where President Mitterrand was called a traitor, a killer, etc. So they continue to demonstrate, they continue to maintain the pressure against this French intervention. They accuse France of wanting to help their enemies".
- France, which took the initiative, the head of this operation Turquoise, receives for the moment only a limited and material reinforcement, for example from the United States. The Italians are wondering if they should act or not. The only African partner that has made a concrete commitment is Senegal. A first detachment embarked this morning in Dakar.
- "We are the Diambars", the heroes in the Wolof language. 6 am, on the Ouakam base near Dakar, the men of the 22nd reconnaissance and support battalion prepare to join the French forces in Zaire. Impeccable equipment, yesterday [June 23] France dressed them from head to toe, boots and Famas rifles included.
- Eventually there will be 300. Today only 40 of them fly away as precursors. Their mission, the Minister of the Armed Forces came to recall: strictly humanitarian objective. Without apparent qualms, even if they are politically isolated in Africa, even if some accuse them of being in the baggage of France. Colonel Djibril Thiandoum, commander of the Senegalese detachment: "We are very proud to work with France".
- Senegal, like France, fully measures the political and military risks of such an intervention, however humanitarian it may be. So to avoid any unnecessary risk, the Senegalese troops will first be confined to missions that will keep them away from the front.
- At the European summit in Corfu which begins today, in Greece, France will seek more explicit support from its partners who are timid.
- It was in an old church dedicated to Saint-Georges that the Twelve met this morning in Corfu. With a guest, Boris Yeltsin, who came to sign a partnership agreement with Europe. It is at tonight's dinner that Heads of State and Government will discuss Rwanda.
- But the conversations outside the summit during the day will allow France to take stock with its partners. Will Silvio Berlusconi finally be convinced to go there despite his great caution?
- Belgium, Portugal, Denmark could participate in logistical support. The Spaniards are less enthusiastic. Nothing concrete from the Germans. In any case, there should be a text in Corfu to support France's intervention.
- But France wants more. It calls for "more active support from its European partners", said yesterday [June 23] Mr. Lamassoure, the Minister for European Affairs. In non-diplomatic language, this means: "Words are fine, actions are so much better".