France’s ‘old guard’ obstacle to Rwanda–France rapprochement

KIGALI - A leading scholar and journalist, Andrew Wallis, on Friday told an international symposium, that the French ‘old guard’, implicated in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, stood in the way of ‘rapprochement’ between the Rwandan and French governments. He talks of a divide between an ‘old’ and ‘new’ France.
Andrew Wallis.
Andrew Wallis.

KIGALI - A leading scholar and journalist, Andrew Wallis, on Friday told an international symposium, that the French ‘old guard’, implicated in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, stood in the way of ‘rapprochement’ between the Rwandan and French governments. He talks of a divide between an ‘old’ and ‘new’ France.

In a wide ranging presentation, Wallis also warns of a ‘PR war’ being waged by some western governments and international NGO’s, against Rwanda, in order to give; “credence to revisionist and negationist views that foster a continued genocide ideology.”

“Those who for political reasons find this new resurgent nation a threat to them. Their means of attack is to continue a subtle genocide revisionism, re-produce the ‘double genocide’ myth, to muddy the historical events to their own political ends.”

He cites Human Rights Watch among these, whom he says, are seen as ‘upholders of human rights’, but “like all human organizations, they can become narrow, very easily misled in their stance, so they reflect the politics of the individuals rather than the broader Charter of human rights, they aim to achieve.”

Wallis of the University of Oxford and the author of the book, ‘Silent Accomplice: The untold story of France’s role in the Rwandan Genocide’, said of France-Rwanda relations.

“What is clear though is that there are elements in the Elysee and military in Paris who still hold significant sway and will, on no account, accept any responsibility for their actions in Rwanda.”

The international symposium held under the theme, “15years after Genocide: Where now for Rwanda?”, was hosted by the Rotary Club of Kigali-Virunga in association with Oxford Transitional Justice Research, the Law Faculty and Centre for Socio-Legal Studies at the university.

The scolar told the gathering of top government officials, leading researchers on Genocide, fellow scholars and journalists, that recent political events between Rwanda and France signal towards a thawing of relations.

The first one he cited was the recent case involving, Rwanda’s Director of State Protocol.

“The return of Rose Kabuye on Tuesday and the dropping of the arrest warrant against her marks a low key start of perhaps a new era of rapprochement,” he said.

Kabuye was late last year arrested in Germany while on an official state duty.

Her arrest stemmed from the controversial indictments issued in 2006 by French Judge Jean Louis Bruguière which have widely been condemned by the Rwandan Government as having been politically motivated.

Wallis says Bruguière’s case is now totally discredited.

“His few witnesses such as Abdul Ruzibiza and Innocent Marara have admitted to giving false testimony – under intense stress from the French secret services, the DST, with whom Bruguière had worked closely for decades.”

The 2006 indictments against Kabuye and other top government officials saw the cut in diplomatic ties, with Rwanda immediately expelling the French Ambassador Dominique Decherf.

Since then relations have remained frosty; over many issues among which has been France’s reluctance to own up to its role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in which over a million people perished. 

In 2004 Rwanda set up its own independent Commission to investigate France’s role in the Genocide, the report so far implicates 33 top French military and governments officials. No indictments have been commissioned for their arrest.

Now as Rwanda commemorates the 15th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi, Wallis a frequent visitor to the country before and after the Genocide, sees a glimmer of hope in the resumption of diplomatic ties with France.

To make his point, Wallis further states that by selecting Bernard Kouchner to be his Foreign Secretary, “Sarkozy one suspects had more than a passing glance on trying to normalize relations with Kigali.”

Wallis claims in his presentation that President Paul Kagame told him ‘recently’ that he saw Sarkozy, “as someone to do serious business with’ and Kouchner as someone who understands the history of Rwanda and the genocide and the history around it.”

The major obstacles however, according to Wallis, are the influential old guard in Paris, “who recognize that any resumption of diplomatic relations could lead to their own murky policies during the genocide being exposed may still capsize this scenario. No politician wants his legacy to be one of policy implication with genocide.”

While France has never publicly acknowledged its role in the genocide against the Tutsi, Wallis as he well documents in his book reiterates the role played by organizations such as association France-Turquoise, set up to defend the ‘honour’ of soldiers involved in that operation under General Lafourcade.

Wallis says the implicated French officials, have furthered the ‘double genocide’ myth, naming among others Edouard Balladur, Alain Juppe, Dominique de Villepin, Francois Leotard and Bernard Debre, whom he says, “make a heavy cast of just some of the military and political actors who refuse to countenance any acceptance of blame.”

Ends

 

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