The only surprise in France’s statement of denial about its widely known role in the 1994 Genocide is the assertion that it is committed to not souring further bilateral relations with Rwanda.
Surprising because it makes reference to President Nicolas Sarkozy’s December 2007 meeting with President Paul Kagame in Lisbon and a subsequent visit to Kigali a month later by his foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, as evidence of ties on the mend.
“We continue to place our relationship with Rwanda within this forward-looking perspective,” Romain Nadal, the French foreign affairs ministry spokesman was able to say.
This followed the release on Tuesday by Rwanda’s justice minister Tharcisse Karugarama of a carefully compiled report which laid bare France’s part in a barbaric attempt by the defunct Hutu extremist regime to exterminate the Tutsi.
One million lives were wasted in the pogrom.
It is nearly eight months now since the last of those two quickly arranged meetings in Lisbon and Kigali.
The simple question is: what else is there to show Paris is determined to address even the little it admits – having made mistakes of a political nature?
What is there to convince anyone that the “determination to build a new relationship with Rwanda, moving beyond our difficult past remains intact,” as Nadal says is not hot air?
The answer is zero.
The report which has put France to new levels of shame (see a story on page three of this issue titled: The French Connection) was ready in November last year. Release was delayed, perhaps due to the Lisbon and Kigali meetings that were coming up.
By so doing Kigali allowed, once more, a chance, and time, to diplomacy. Whether Paris deserved the gesture considering its behaviour in the aftermath of the Genocide is another matter altogether.
But it is also possible that France might have requested for the presidents’ meeting and minister’s visit – both taking place at a time the report was just done – with the intention of stalling the report’s release; or equally weird, to buy time for preparing a defence.
And what do the French have in defence at the end of it all; that the allegations are unacceptable? We did not expect a much different reaction anyway.
That it is possible to question the objectivity of the commission’s mandate? Yes, possible but not tenable. It all comes to zilch.