Who sponsored this investigation ?
Nobody. Circumstances put me on the track of an investigation. My initial approach is completely personal. It consisted in going and collect some testimonies. I did not expect them to lead me to keep on working on this subject throughout the three following years.
Were the genocidals the first to tell you about the presence of white soldiers in mid-May in Bisesero?
No. A survivor first mentioned this presence to me. Then two other survivors told me the same in following individual interviews. It’s only later that a first genocidal will also tell me it.
Do you think that the former genocidals could have tried to diminish their responsibility in this massacre by inventing the participation of white soldiers in it ?
I do not see the point in having them do it when they had already been in prison for what they had done. And again, they were not the witnesses who put me on this track.
Do you not fear that this may help minimize the responsibility of the thousands of Rwandan killers who actively participated in this massacre?
A survivor of Bisesero answered this question in his own way by telling me about the white soldiers who took part in it: "Can I absolve them of acts of killing since they were with soldiers and many, many, many others ? In other words, the question can be asked in both directions. Both the presence of Whites and Rwandan genocidals was necessary for the accomplishment of this massacre in that they were perfectly synchronized on the ground. We do not have to worry about considerations other than establishing the truth.
Have survivors told you that they did not see white soldiers on May 13 in Bisesero?
Yes. This is for example the case of Esther, who only saw one on the 12th. She was macheted very early in the day on the 13th, and remained unconscious. This is also the case with Eric. The fact that some have not seen them cannot invalidate the testimony of those who have seen them. This is the reasoning that prevails in the conclusions of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in the trial of Mikaeli Muhimana, said Mika, when the judges had to consider the testimony of a person claiming not to have seen him. They then observed that "thousands of assailants, deployed over a large geographical area, had participated in the said attacks", adding that "it follows that the fact that these witnesses neither saw Mika nor heard of his participation in the attacks does not necessarily imply that he did not take part into them. This argument also applies, in general, to any individual trying to invalidate the testimony of another by relying on the fact that he has not seen what the latter says having seen.
Why did you want a journalist from a major American newspaper to accompany you during the second part of your investigation?
For a journalist engaging the responsibility of a major international media witness the conditions under which this investigation was carried out. Let's not forget that it is no less than the best-selling economic newspaper in the world that is engaged in this way.
What is the proportion of individual interviews in the first part of your investigation ?
The first part of my investigation consisted only of individual interviews or reconstitutions on the ground, apart from one or two witness confrontations. To be exact, the only time I did a group interview during this first part of the investigation was when we happened to come across Abasesero [inhabitants of Bisesero] on our way. It was the last day, while we were going to the reconstitution site with the witnesses I had interviewed face to face a few days earlier. I had then obtained that a professional interpreter replace the present interpreter.
Why did you change your interpreter?
I wanted to capture, during this first reconstituion on the ground, a more professional translation than what we had captured so far. The first interpreter was the cameraman of the conference during which I spoke. The new interpreter joined the team after we had discovered the involvement of white soldiers in the May 13 genocide in Bisesero for a good week already. The same professional interpreter will also translate the interviews for the second part of the investigation, when I return to Rwanda ten months later with the American journalist. In all, he translated both individual interviews with survivors and former genocidals telling in details the participation of white soldiers in the May 13 genocide, as well as reconstitutions, for some collectives. Those who, like him, did not participate with my team in the process of the discovery we made have not, so far, benefited from a good overall picture of this investigation.
Can you explain today how these reconstitutions were organized?
I managed to get new names from witnesses step by step. So when, during an individual interview, a witness told me about a particular scene, I generally asked him if someone else, who would still be alive, had experienced this scene . Reconstructions were thus made in particular with people brought by witnesses previously questioned by me. From Paris, I organized my return to Rwanda by asking a Rwandan in charge of part of the logistics to contact these witnesses, in order to establish the calendar for my future interviews. When I returned to Rwanda, we basically only followed this plan scrupulously. The publication of this book should finally allow those who legitimately wish to understand this whole process to discover the parts of the investigation that they miss.
Have all the field reconstructions been collective?
No. All the reconstructions of the first part of the investigation were individual. Those of the second part were partly collective, partly individual. When they were collective, a number of witnesses spoke away from the others, especially when I took their testimony after they had placed themselves at specific locations in the reconstitution.
Has it happened that the same collective reconstitution takes place over several days?
No reconstitution of the same event lasted several days.
Why collective reconstitutions ? Aren't you afraid that witnesses may have influenced each other?
The collective reconstitutions were the end of a long process initiated several months before, after numerous testimonies had previously been collected individually, and had opened the way for the presence of white soldiers on May 12 and 13, 1994 in Bisesero. In other words, History was already solidly established even before these few collective reconstructions began. The latter only clarified it. One of the reasons which led me to carry out some collective reconstitutions at the end of the second part of the investigation is that the reconstitution being done in the hills, it was complicated to manage each people waiting to be interviewed, in particular it’s raining a lot in this area at this time of the year. Some interviews on the ground were done in the pouring rain. Another reason is that individual questioning involves time and money (logistics, transcription, verification of translation, etc.). The third reason is that, on the contrary, I found it interesting that some could bounce off the explanations of others in order to clarify them. This often helps to understand things that a single witness would not be able to explain as well. The collective nature of some reconstitutions has also allowed former genocidals, noting that their colleagues took the initiative to reveal certain things, to reveal in their turn what they had hidden. In this sense, we can actually speak of a positive influence of one witness on another.
Was there any exchange of money with the witnesses?
I reimbursed them their travel expenses, upon presentation of their ticket. I had made it clear that this would be the only exchange of money that could be with witnesses.
Why did it take so long between the first revelations published in the press in 2010 and today to make public the transcripts of these testimonies?
It took me a long time to have a workable digitization of the interviews in the second part of my investigation, months having passed without being able to start work. From the availability of these new scans, began a long and tedious work. I take this opportunity to thank all those who helped me in this task, and without whom nothing would have been possible. The first step was to transcribe the interviews in writing. These written transcripts were then sent to seven Rwandan women in different countries (Rwanda, Switzerland, United States, etc.), each of these transcripts being accompanied by the soundtrack corresponding to the interview whose errors were to be identified, as well as omissions of the translation on the fly. Carrying out the written transcript of more than five hundred pages of interview, then the word-by-word verification of the translation from Kinyarwanda, was a major undertaking which it was not possible to achieve in a short time. My isolation, which was necessary both for the organization of this work, and for the analysis of this corpus in the light of existing surveys, and finally in the writing of the work now available, probably helped to fuel doubts about the investigation, even all kinds of fantasies about me. This is why it was high time to present both the written transcripts of my survey and its methodology, which I can finally do with this book. I also make myself available to anyone who, journalist or not, would like to speak with me in order to ask me any questions they consider useful to ask me about this investigation.
How to trust the words of the investigator ?
The only words that count is the ones of the witnesses.
Can we trust the words of witnesses who, we can imagine, are still traumatized by what they have experienced ?
For the most part, you can trust it. Absolutely. It’s up to the investigator to know how to sort. But the problem comes, in my opinion, more from the difficulty for the witness to be sure of the dates than to a possible trauma. Many of the survivors are clear in their story. It is up to the investigator to be methodical in order to be certain of the date to which the scenes they describe refer. As for the genocidals, the question of the trauma is of course not the question. Let us be aware that disqualifying a priori the testimonies of survivors on the pretext that they would be traumatized is allowing that reasoning to be applied to the testimonies of survivors of the Nazi death camps.
Do you think that witnesses could have got the date wrong by talking about mid-May, when they wanted to talk about the end of June, that is to say the time when Operation Turquoise was deployed ?
If it is the case, that would mean white soldiers shot them during Operation Turquoise, which I think is no less serious.
It happened to me not to withhold a testimony, not because I was convinced that the witness had the wrong date, but because I myself was unable to remove the doubt.
Here are some of the methods I used to resolve this doubt:
Benefit from the testimony of another person present with the first witness during the event that the latter described, the new witness being, meanwhile, unequivocally able to specify the date.
Have the witnesses separate the two dates, some claiming for example that on June 27 - when they see the soldiers of Turquoise -, they remember these white soldiers they had seen a month and a half earlier in the area. Some witnesses spontaneously and very clearly separate these two dates.
Find out if the Tutsi could still defend themselves well against their attackers. We know that this will no longer be the case after May 13, the date from which they will hide.
Take note of the hill names they refer to when describing the genocidal assaults that took place there. The major attacks that took place in particular on the hills of Gititi, Kagari and Nyiramakware could a priori only concern the genocidal assault of May 13.
Do you think you could have been manipulated?
It is impossible, such manipulation requiring an orchestration far too complex upstream. Such manipulation would have been identified at one time or another during the numerous individual interviews which, for some, lasted two hours or more. Yet the testimonies of some fit perfectly into the testimonies of others. It should be remembered, moreover, that no one was, at the beginning of April in Rwanda, aware of this project of collecting testimonies. This work started when, talking to the cameraman who was filming our speeches at the symposium, I suggested that he accompany me to film some interviews.
How to explain that the witnesses were silent for fifteen years?
The former genocidals talked to me while they are now free, having done their prison sentence. We can easily imagine the risk of reprisals they would have taken if some of their fellow prisoners had read the revelations they made to me in the press. This fear probably explains why the Rwandan commission, which I accompanied on December 19, 2006 in Bisesero, could not obtain from them this kind of revelations. They were still serving their prison sentence. With regard to the survivors, the investigation of the Rwandan commission concentrated on the days of June 27 to 30, 1994.
The witnesses heard before the ICTR spoke of crime scenes directly involving those who are accused, that is to say Rwandans. If the reports of the ICTR do not show that their witnesses mentioned the presence of whites in Bisesero on May 13, 1994, they do however sometimes mention the use of rocket launchers. My own witnesses claim they were on May 13 among others in the hands of white soldiers.
The African Rights association could not, at the time of its investigation, benefit from the testimony of former killers. They were then exiled in Zaire. As for the survivors, I explain in the book how I consider that these are simple circumstances that will have allowed me to obtain what the association can not have obtained itself. In its formidable work of investigation, this association reveals many causal links which were for me therefore no longer to be discovered.
Some genocidals today express their remorse. This is the case with Fidèle Simugomwa. Here is what he said, on April 30, 2009 in Mubuga, in front of my camera: "So far, it has hurt me very deeply. This is the reason why I cannot hide what happened. Even today it still hurts me because among these Tutsi there were my best friends. "
Do you consider that your discovery constitutes a turning point in the research on the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi of Rwanda?
No more than other discoveries. Those of African Rights, Cécile Grenier (the first to have discovered during her six months of investigation in Rwanda that Tutsi had been thrown from French helicopters during Turquoise), of Georges Kapler (coming from his investigation in Rwanda and saying that one should no longer speak of complicity but rather of direct participation of France in this genocide), of the Mucyo Commission (with in particular all its details on the training by French soldiers of the militias of the genocide), are as many important stages in the establishment of this History of the implication of France in the genocide of the Tutsi of Rwanda. You have to understand that I used all of these surveys when I was put on the track that we know. What the witnesses told me is certainly spectacular. But what is there left to be discovered ? I am here only laying a new stone of this building which is called History on those laid by those who preceded me.
Why a question mark in the title of the book ?
I intend to leave the reader take the path that I myself have taken. As far as I am concerned, this path led me to the lost of my innocence. A mourning at the end of which one can certainly be reborn another. It depends on everyone. In any case, I don't have to deprive them of this passage.