What is France’s place in Rwanda?

Upon what are encouraging signs from both the French and Rwandan governments to meet together during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, interest now is paid to the what and when, rather than if, of the future of the countries’ bilateral relations.

Upon what are encouraging signs from both the French and Rwandan governments to meet together during the United Nations General Assembly in New York, interest now is paid to the what and when, rather than if, of the future of the countries’ bilateral relations.

Since the 1994 Genocide, relations with the EU member have been strained, and since last November’s warrant for President Paul Kagame’s arrest by French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, there has been no diplomatic presence from either country in either country.

After change in leadership in the European country, though, the once-devastated relations seem more reparable. While full diplomatic relations, and beyond that, friendship, between the administrations is still far off, it is not too early to begin to understand what a new relationship would look like, and how much it will be based on the past.

The question to be addressed is whether Rwanda and France can find a relationship together that does not bend and swing on the events of those 100 days between April and July?

The two countries must take baby steps, if steps at all, focusing first on non-political, non-social joint endeavours, as any projects within those realms are likely to be met with skepticism from the public.

As much as Rwanda must redesign its image across the world, France must do the same within the country.

That will be the job of Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who has been an avid spokesman so far for President Nicholas Sarkozy’s new, forward-looking national policy.

There are positive things the francophone legacy in Rwanda has left that do not need to be done away with. Though a proactive energy in Rwanda’s social rights should be temporarily off-limits to Paris, the reopening of the French cultural centre—at least for its prime real estate—would be welcome.

Initiative on eco-tourism, hospitality, and environmental preservation could be acceptable open doors as well.
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