Bernard Kouchner wants to reconcile France and Rwanda

For the first time since the rupture of diplomatic relations between Rwanda and France in November 2006, a French official mission arrived in Kigali in mid-September.


For the first time since the rupture of diplomatic relations between Rwanda and France in November 2006, a French official mission arrived in Kigali in mid-September.

Conducted by Jean Gliniasty, director of Africa at Quai d’ Orsay, the mission aimed, according to Paris, at “perusing the ways and means likely to lead to the resumption of normal relations.”

End of July, the foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, had initiated the process, wishing that the two countries renew relations “as soon as possible” and announcing his next arrival in Kigali.

Rwanda is “one of the only countries that works well” in Africa, a state that plays an important role, he had added, alluding to the Rwandan contribution to the peace force in Darfur. The minister’s trust has been variously appreciated in Elysee.

The Franco-Rwandan reconciliation appears to be an impossible equation, so much so, that the stakes - diplomatic, judicial, military, historic, ethical - are on all sides multiple, intricate and dreadfully heavy on each side.

At the centre of the litigation are nine international warrants targeting Rwandan dignitaries.

Delivered November 22, 2006 by the Parisian judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, they motivated, two days later, the rupture by Kigali of the diplomatic relations with Paris.

The “Bruguiere’s investigation” aims at searching for the authors of the attempt of April 6, 1994 in Kigali against the plane of the Rwandan president Habyarimana that was the launching signal of the Tutsis Genocide perpetrated by the Hutu power that had succeeded Habyarimana.

The order, issued in November 2006 by Judge Bruguiere, designates, besides the Rwandan President Paul Kagame, at the time chief of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the Tutsi rebellion, as the instigator of the attempt.

The French judge recommended to the international penal Court for Rwanda (ICTR) to inquire into the responsibility of Mr. Kagame.

The visit, in September, of the French diplomatic mission in Kigali, including some lawyers, focused on this file. Put aside the questioning; only the remittance of new elements to the file could justify the suspension of the nine warrants.

According to the scheme proposed by the Quai d’ Orsay, Rwanda would transmit to France her answers to each of Judge Bruguiere’s accusations via Belgium that represents Paris in Kigali since the rupture.

Recipient of the Rwandan document, the Justice Minister, Rachida Dati, would seize the public prosecutor’s office, which would present to the judges of instruction new requisitions including, for example, the audition of the Rwandans questioned.

However, the last word would come back to Judges Marc Trevidic and Philippe Coirre, in charge of the instruction since Mr Bruguiere left in June.

Rescuers of this voluminous non-enclosed file, main piece of the Franco-Rwandan bargaining, the magistrates are free to follow or not the requisitions of the public prosecutor’s office. Already, they are submitted to rough pressures.

As soon as they were, confided the file, they received, June 12, the visit of Judges Lef Forsters and Bernard Maingain, representing three of the Rwandan personalities targeted, by the warrants.

The two lawyers pleaded in favor of a Franco-Rwandan “detente”, and proposed to the judges to interrogate their customers in Rwanda, or else in a “neutral” country.

“The judge can only decide that after having heard the concerned people. It is a bearing in conformity with the human rights,” assures Mr. Forster. But the formula, that supposes the suspension of the warrants, would prevent, if the case arises, the questioning of the concerned persons abroad impossible.

“The Rwandans especially want to have access to the procedure,” analyzes a connoisseur of the file. “But to come back on the mandates would be to adopt a political and non-legal position. Another possibility would consist, for Kigali, to accept the questioning of one of people aimed at.”

Bernard Kouchner has, on his side, taken his distances with the accusations of Judge Bruguiere. “I don’t know who shot. On one side as the other, the revelations appear suspicious, as the proofs seem thin,” he writes in his preface of “Rwanda, for a Dialogue of the Memories” (Albin Michel, 2007).

But I know that the Genocide of 800, 000 Tutsis didn’t emerge spontaneously, he continues, as in answer to the judge, whose findings have the tendency to make Mr Paul Kagame responsible for the extermination of his own people.

The Rwandan President, who, on his side, accuses France of complicity with the Hutu genocidaires, is an old acquaintance of the French Foreign Affairs minister. In May 1994, during genocide, Mr Kouchner had met General Kagame in his HQs in the bush, when
RPF advanced toward Kigali. With the UN mandate, Mr Kouchner tried to negotiate a “humanitarian passageway” to save some Tutsi prisoners. One month later, representing this time President Francois Mitterrand, he tried to convince Mr Kagame to have the confidence of the merit of the “Turquoise” French military operation.

Facing the accusations of Judge Bruguiere, Kigali created a “commission of investigation” intended to put into light the responsibility of France before and during genocide.

The threat of a publication of its findings, planned for the end of the month of October, could move away if the French diplomacy marks a turn.

Kigali is otherwise conceiving another commission, in charge of inquiring into the attempt of April 6, 1994.

But Rwanda could not stop at the diplomatic- judicial imbroglio. Kigali wishes Paris recognizes France’s role in the Rwandan war of the years 1990-1994 and in the Tutsi genocide.

For a step of “repentance” has been asked, following gestures done, these last years, by the United States and Belgium. However, the Rwandan power does not ignore at what point this attitude is hardly to the taste of the French President, Nicolas Sarkozy.

This article, translated from French and slightly edited, first appeared in Le Monde

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