French army leaves too early


Départ trop rapide de l’armée française – interview Bernard Pecoul, MSF France DG /GD, Vincent Faber (MDM), Hervé Dubois (Atlas) France 2- 22 August 1994. In French (en français)


TV presenter: "The United Nations High Commission says it is concerned by but not in despair about this situation, in stark contrast to the relatively positive feedback from most humanitarian organisations about Operation Turquoise and its roll out these last few days. Philippe Rochot and Vincent Maillard"

Commentary: "The departure of the last 500 French soldiers from Rwanda leaves humanitarian organisations to cope with the immense staffing and logistics problems on their own. No one's contesting the thousands of human lives saved due to the French armed forces' efforts. But according to organisations such as Médecins sans Frontières, which has 300 staff on the ground, France should be doing more than just assistance operations for populations in distress."

- Bernard Pecoul (MSF): "The soldiers were useful and I believe they did a proper job of the humanitarian part of their work. But we also believe that when states become involved, when the international community becomes involved, it can't just intervene from a humanitarian angle because that completely blurs the essence of the problem, which must be kept in sight."

Commentary: In the Goma camps, people aren't just dying of cholera, they’ve got other diseases too, just as in the humanitarian zone. For Médecins du Monde, the French soldiers have left too quickly, there's been no time to prepare handovers.

- Vincent Faber, Médecins du Monde: "The departure of the French today is just the logical conclusion of political ambiguity in that they've had limited impact from the start, limited by the RPF because they never had any legitimacy in the RPF's eyes, so there you go. They’ve had limited impact from the start, unable to really prepare a handover of their humanitarian work, which is what they came here to do, don't forget."

Commentary: But the departure of the French is felt hardest in logistics terms. Small organisations such as Atlas are now having to face transport problems alone, whereas previously the French army arranged convoys for most of the food and medical aid. Now they're desperately searching for convoy leaders and logistics personnel.

- Hervé Dubois, Atlas president: "We realised that there was such a deficit in transportation terms that funding was required for trucks, stocks and telecommunications installation. All logistics infrastructure has been funded, we're starting to set it up, and we need to double our efforts in the Cyangugu area."

Commentary: All humanitarian organisations are currently accepted by the new authorities in Rwanda, which allows them to work in the former French zone, but population movements remain hard to predict.