"Looking at ethnicity as modern does not imply that ethnic conflicts thereby appear less 'real' simply because they may be based on an 'invention,' a cultural construction."
Werner Sollors1

After noticing the absence of a description of US post-Cold War peacekeeping policy in the Duclert report, which constitutes a topological disparity with some English-speaking studies, it may be interesting to investigate the systemic disparities, particularly in view of the conclusions of the Duclert report.

One of the striking conclusions of the Duclert report is that the French authorities would have adopted an "ethnicist interpretive framework". An ambiguity immediately arises: While chapter 7, devoted to the commission's assessments and judgments, uses the term "ethnicist" 40 times, the report does not specify the meaning that the commission gives to this word.

Beyond the exogenous part of the construction process of Hutu and Tutsi identities, and the issue of the adequacy of the term "ethnic" to qualify groups that self-identify as Hutu or Tutsi, does this mean that the commission thinks that the French authorities would have been in favor of an "ethnic" segregation or, at least, between Hutus and Tutsis?


Anyway, beyond this semantic ambiguity, systemic disparities concerning the ethnic issue appear between the Duclert report and the Quilès report. As the existence of identity cards mentioning the ethnic group played a crucial role in the genocide since they enabled discrimination, it is particularly important to observe how these two reports depict the actions of the French authorities in that matter.

The Duclert report mentions this issue just once, indicating only that President Habyarimana planned to remove the ethnic reference from identity cards.

For its part, the Quilès report provides more information: Jean-Cristophe Mitterrand, then Africa adviser at the Élysée, and Jacques Pelletier, Minister of Cooperation from May 1988 to May 1991, testified that France had requested the removal of the ethnic mention from identity cards. Jacques Pelletier specified that he had discussed the issue with Juvénal Habyarimana in November 1990. He then told him that the presence of these ethnic references was shocking, to which the Rwandan President replied that it could be deleted.

This request from the French authorities is confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Michel Lévêque, who was Director of African and Malagasy Affairs at the time, testified that during Jacques Pelletier's visit the French delegation insisted that the Rwandan authorities remove the ethnic mention and thus demonstrate the abolition of ethnic inequalities, and that the Directorate of African and Malagasy Affairs felt that it was absolutely necessary to remove all ethnic references.

Likewise, Marcel Debarge, Minister of Cooperation from April 1992 to March 1993, affirmed that during his visit to Rwanda in May 1992, the Rwandan government told him that they intended to issue identity cards without ethnic mention, to which he replied that it was a positive measure and that his ministry was in favor of it.

It may be enlightening to notice the contrast between this political posture of the French authorities, who in the early 1990s were opposed to the ethnic identity card in Rwanda, and that of the same authorities who in 2008 attempted to establish the EDVIGE database in France, which would have in particular enabled the tracking of ethnic origins, political or religious opinions, or union or association activities.

In any case, none of the actions of the French authorities in favor of the removal of the ethnic mention from Rwandan identity cards mentioned in the Quilès report is described in the Duclert report. Beyond the disparities between different reports, whether produced by researchers, parliamentarians, or law firms, an important problem is that of the effects of their media coverage: even upstream of the reduction of differences in judgments, it appears that the deconflictualisation of the current situation could be favored by more critical media coverage, which would take into account more sources describing the facts, so as to minimise the omissions of important facts.

It is uncertain whether the media business model allows for these corrective measures, due to the necessary investment in reading time of thousands of reports pages. Failing that, the informational gaps and deficits of some sources or reports risk being disseminated by the dominant media, thus amplifying their cindynogenic effects, and hampering the deconflictualisation process.

1 SOLLORS, Werner (dir.). The Invention of ethnicity. New York : Oxford University Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-19-504589-5