Old French wine in a new bottle does not augur well for relations with Rwanda

I usually don’t involve myself with cabinet changes in countries other than our very own; however, this time I shall. The person who has made me change my unwritten rule is French uber- Minister Alain Juppe. He was appointed French Foreign Minister on Sunday night by Nicholas Sarkozy, replacing Michèle Alliot-Marie. I don’t know what the criterion for French foreign minister is but let me hazard this guess.

I usually don’t involve myself with cabinet changes in countries other than our very own; however, this time I shall. The person who has made me change my unwritten rule is French uber- Minister Alain Juppe.

He was appointed French Foreign Minister on Sunday night by Nicholas Sarkozy, replacing Michèle Alliot-Marie. I don’t know what the criterion for French foreign minister is but let me hazard this guess.

The post is only reserved for the most controversial politician that the President can think of.  Alain Juppe after Michèle Alliot-Marie? It seems like a comedy of errors. Sadly, no one in their right mind is laughing.

Michèle Alliot-Marie tendered in her resignation after totally mishandling the Tunisian uprising.

On January 11 she proposed that the French military march on Tunis to help President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali restore ‘order’. This was after she had accepted a free flight on a luxury jet owned by one of Ben Ali’s henchmen.

She’s walked off into the night wondering to herself, “what have I done wrong?” “Any other foreign minister from France would have done the same”.  And you know what, she has a point. Enter her successor, Mister Juppe.

Alain Juppe was French Foreign Minister during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. He worked hard to sanitize and to prop up a regime that had just wiped out one million of the Rwandan people.

Unlike Michèle Alliot-Marie, however, Juppe was able to hoodwink the French public into approving two operations, Amaryllis  and Turquoise, which succeeded in organizing safe passage for the leaders of the regime that had just committed a Genocide against Rwandans.

Indeed Alain Juppe still stands accused of arrogantly entering the Rwandan territory illegally, when, in 1994, he crossed into the country from the then Zaire, without a VISA. 

For his actions during this period, the Mucyo Commission (that investigated the French involvement in the Genocide) published a report in 2008 that indicted him along with 32 other political and military figures, of actively supporting the genocidal forces.

His reaction to the Mucyo Report was simply arrogant and false to boot.

He called the report an unacceptable falsification and claimed that during his time as head of French diplomacy (April 1993 to May 1995), France did everything it could to help Rwanda reconciliation. "Did we, for example, systematically take the side of one camp against another, Hutu against Tutsi?” he asked. "Did we 'fail' to denounce the genocide committed by Hutu extremists starting in April 1994?”Well, I answer “oui” to both questions.

When France’s ‘petit carre’ was attacked by the men and women of the Rwanda Patriotic Front, the French administration was quick to demonise them, calling them’ Khmer Noir invaders’. During the four year civil war, France trained the same militia that would get the notorious moniker “Interahamwe’. It’s an open secret that the French army actually engaged in combat operations against the Rwanda Patriotic Army.

It’s an open secret as well that Zone Turquoise, Alain Juppe’s own brainchild, rather than being a place where hunted Tutsi’s could finally breathe a sigh of relief, was a place where the killings took place right under the noses of the heavily armed French Foreign Legion.  And as Foreign Minister, Mr Juppe was right in the middle of all this. To him, I, and the rest of Rwanda, in the immortal words of Emile Zola, cry “j’accuse, j’accuse”!

The two governments, of Rwanda and France, have reconciled and restored diplomatic relations and that’s well and good.

But I have to wonder whether Mr. Juppe is the right person to take this healing relationship forward. How will he sit with Rwandan delegations and be taken seriously? I mean, I wouldn’t take his word seriously, and I’m a mere writer.  How engaging will he be, sitting with people he once described as the ‘Khmer Noir’?  It’s up to Alain Juppe to prove that he’s learnt from his previous mistakes and that he is a willing partner in moving the Rwanda-French relationship forward and that he’s not simply old wine in a new bottle.

sunnyntayombya@newtimes.co.rw

 

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