Calls for France to rethink its Africa role
A Rwandan report this week charged Paris with complicity in the 1994 genocide.
A bombshell of a report by Rwanda this week implicating high-ranking French officials in the arming and training of Hutu forces that committed genocide in Rwanda – could have been issued last November. President Paul Kagame sat on the 500-page study, approved by the Rwandan Senate, for months.Skip to next paragraph
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It was a time of some bonhomie with France. President Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, much liked in Kigali, were working on a new rapprochement policy – after Rwanda broke all ties with France in 2006 over a French judge's indictment of Mr. Kagame for allegedly ordering an assassination in 1994.
Kagame, a Tutsi, appears to have lost patience with France. He had hoped that the 2006 indictment would be renounced and that high-level Hutus still living in France would be deported to Rwanda to face genocide charges.
Still, what is likely the last major report on the 1994 Rwandan genocide that killed more than 800,000, leaves France with an embarrassing problem – one cutting to the heart of its own political elite, to a network of French unofficial "parallel structures" of commerce and intelligence in Africa, and to how a major power will deal with thorny questions of justice about its behavior in the postcolonial world.
"The French know this report is dynamite and wanted to keep it from seeing the light of day," says Andrew Wallis, author of "Silent Accomplice," a recounting of alleged French backing of the Hutu government in Rwanda in the early 1990s. "This creates a new chapter and ends an old one. The question is, where do the two sides go now? The French tried in every way to unseat Kagame, but now recognize he is here to stay. But you aren't going to get an apology from the French.... The Hutus were armed and trained by a foreign power that walked away and said 'I never did it.' "
The details in the Rwandan document – its naming of French political and military officials, its recounting of French weapons sales, French training, incidents, times, dates, and places of specific crimes – have so far been treated with scorn, and a blanket denial in Paris.
French defense minister Hervé Morin told Radio France Internationale Thursday that French investigators in 1998 found French soldiers in Rwanda were "beyond reproach" and said they saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Whether Kagame, whose profile in Africa has been rising, will attempt to push a prosecution at a time when the West has been touting the arrest of Balkan leaders accused of war crimes, as well as an International Criminal Court indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, is unknown.
Tom Cargill, Africa expert with the London think tank Chatham House, told Reuters, "I think it all points to a profound disturbance in international relations caused by the emergence of an international legal system.... The very idea that there might be a legal process ... quite separate from politics is causing many people in many countries to rethink how they approach international relations."