Source: Monitor Online

Bully boy France has overstepped the mark

Gaaki Kigambo

I was in Kigali in late 2006 when French Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere issued warrants of arrest for nine top Rwanda government officials, including the Head of Protocol Rose Kabuye, on charges of shooting down a plane carrying former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana in 1994, in which three-member French crew also died.
Were it not for French legislation that provides immunity for a sitting president, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame too would have been on that list. The government was livid, its reaction unprecedented. In a short time it had galvanised the population who poured to the streets in protest against France's shamelessness in continuously denying its role in the genocide and instead witch-hunting those who stopped it.

In less than 24 hours, the government had expelled the French ambassador; closed the French Cultural Centre; frozen everything French and implicitly equated the association of anything French, including speaking the language, as betrayal to the country. In their swipes against their new nemesis, the judge was reduced to a mere magistrate. On home turf, the government scored a hat trick. They were on top of things.  

However, it was obvious that such a 'victory' was only temporary. The last laugh belonged to Judge Bruguiere and France, and it didn't matter whether that came after one or many years. The arrest and extradition of Ms Kabuye to France to face genocide (of all crimes) charges barely two years after the warrants were issued must have surprised even Bruguiere himself.

There are tonnes of evidence that directly implicate France in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Pick any report or book about the Rwanda genocide and you are sure to find France on the same side as the genocidaires, and not even once on the opposite. Yet Paris has not said a single word on all the accusations piled at her doorstep. Instead, France has bullied Kigali relentlessly and continues to do so without remorse.

France has managed to do this because of its clout. For instance, it holds a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, a membership among the G8 countries in the world, and a power in its own right in Europe and the world.

It is a country that Rwanda has been coming up against and it has clearly failed. Not even in a lifetime would Rwanda be able to get France to do what it wants her to do; own up their role in the genocide, apologise to Rwanda, and possibly pay reparations, unless there is an astounding shift in the balance of power, which is not about to happen.

So what can Rwanda do? The government needs to make the 1994 genocide a world issue, not a Rwanda affair because as it is now the world will soon forget about it. Israel did everything within her power to get the world to 'own' up the holocaust and now over 60 years later the world is always reminded of the cruel actions of evil. Yet in Rwanda case, where the genocide has been equated to the Jewish holocaust in modern times, the annual memorial week is largely a national affair.

Rwanda needs to lobby the East African Community, where she is a member. The EAC should throw its weight behind Rwanda and speak out against Kabuye's arrest and the warrants that hang on the necks of the remaining eight, the unfairness of France and why it remains mute on the genocide accusations against it and why it won't hand over genocide suspects who are living off the French taxpayers' money.

The EAC should lobby the African Union to take up Rwanda's cause in its spirited efforts to stand up against the French bully. An AU petition would certainly ring louder than Rwanda's. The AU shouldn't pronounce itself on economic and political matters alone. It should come out on social and justice issues.

Recently, the AU threw its weight behind Sudan's Omar al-Bashir when the International Criminal Court  issued warrants of arrest against him, even as the conflict in Darfur rages on, unabated. Rwanda shouldn't be an exception.

Mr Kigambo is a journalist

Source: Monitor Online

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