There is no friend like a neighbourly one

What Rwandans have known for a long time and have been saying, sometimes without being taken seriously by outsiders, seems to be coming out to the world at last.
Pan Butamire
Pan Butamire

What Rwandans have known for a long time and have been saying, sometimes without being taken seriously by outsiders, seems to be coming out to the world at last.

This is what some in Rwanda have termed “Hi-Tec” that has nothing to do with technology. It is France’s “Hidden Tutsi Extermination Campaign”.

Some outside commentators, especially French nationals, have done a good job of explaining the relationship between France and today’s Rwanda but the latest comments from African analysts seem to be most compelling, perhaps for their better understanding of the dynamics in African countries.

These comments are contained in analyses by Mr. Charles Onyango-Obbo and Mr. Frederick Golooba-Mutebi, both of The East African, a regional newspaper. (Ref.: Onyango-Obbo’s blog, Great Lakes Crisis 1-7, and Golooba-Mutebi’s analytical article in the paper).

When you consider that Rwanda is not gifted with abundant resources worth fighting over, it is puzzling to see the distance the French system, perhaps part of it, is prepared to go, to fight the unity of Rwandans.

This vendetta has been with Rwandans for a long time now, of course, but still its passionate pursuit by France does not cease to amaze them. Still, they cannot allow anybody, ever, to divide them again.

But it seems Rwandans must be prepared to dig in their heels for a long time to come yet. Of course, Rwandans have some solace to give them morale, when the crisis gets to a pick: from 1994 this far, they’ve been holding their own.

Those who have been keen to follow President Kagame’s speeches will recall how he has on many occasions narrated the story of when he directly came face to face with this vendetta. In 1991, the RPA, fighting wing of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF, today’s ruling party), was in the bush in the northern fringes of Rwanda, in the thick of war with the then government of Rwanda. RPA had started as a ragtag band of fighters but, still, it seemed to be gaining strength despite facing a well-armed government army that was backed by unrelenting French artillery bombardments.

In spite of all that, however, this band of fighters had not witnessed France’s naked hatred towards some Rwandans up close. It came when France invited representatives of the belligerents, in the name of mediating a truce between them.

That mediation never occurred. Instead, the RPA commander, “le rebel Kagame” in the French title coined for him, and the officials he travelled with were seized and subjected to whole day’s questioning.

They came out smarting, the threat that capped the questioning ringing in their exhausted heads: “Cease fighting or your people inside the country will be exterminated!”

What followed from there has been elaborated umpteen times here and elsewhere and what concerns us today is that 1994 bore that French threat out.

Which means, therefore, that some in France view today as unfinished business. For, as Rwandans are well aware, that “Hi-Tec” may sound exotic but it is as crude and real as the crude implements used in the Genocide. All of which goes to explain the proxy wars that are besieging Rwanda from across the north-western and eastern borders.

However, the sad commentary on all the aforementioned is that the proxy warriors of our region seem to think that there is something to gain out of it.

Unlike France that stands to maintain its influence in the region and maybe gain a foothold in more countries that would be amenable to its language and culture, tools of its influence and exploitation, our fellow Africans in the neighbourhood have as much to lose probably as Rwanda, if not more.

A mere glance at DRC and Tanzania demonstrates ample evidence.

From the moment France entrusted eastern Zaïre (DRC today) with the safe keeping of the remnants of the genocidal machine of Rwanda, the whole country said goodbye to the little peace – even if only a semblance of it – that it enjoyed under the kleptocratic Mobutu government.

As things stand, even if the shell of a country were to exterminate everything “Tutsi-dominated” in its east, the poor people of this sorry country will never lead a normal life, the way we know it.

Right now, it is an open secret that our neighbour to the east, Tanzania, is enjoying an unprecedented uneasy feeling that it has never known, save for something that came near to it when the army threatened to mutiny against venerable Mwalimu Nyerere’s government in 1964.

It is known that for some time now, France has been courting it for cosy relations only it knows for what reasons. What should not escape the attention of our calm and collected neighbours, however, should be that there is no doubt that fighting its proxy wars will feature prominently on the least of these reasons.

It is known that the glow of being courted by many competing suitors is alluring. The fascination is even more intense when the suitors are as powerful as USA, China and any other suitors that may be of smaller clout. But as they attract that warm glow, so do they attract sparks. Only neighbours can be there to douse the resultant fires.

Tanzania and the DR Congo would do well to keep that tested African wisdom in mind. When it so happens that they have to turn to that wisdom, only the EAC members and other such close neighbours will be there, waiting.

To repeat myself: as neighbours, we are all better off together than at one another’s throat.  
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