The title is derived from comments attributed to French President, Francois Mitterrand, by American writer Phillip Gourevitch and is illustrative of France’s shameful stance in 1994.
Rwanda’s relationship with the authorities in France has since improved, or at least their leaders have become less callous about the one million innocents who perished at the hands of a genocidal government that received unconditional moral and material support from Paris.
I recently read about the loss of a case file containing the extradition request for Mr. Hyacinthe Rafiki Nsengiyumva at the Paris Cour d’Appel and while it is entirely possible that filing errors can be made even in a developed nation, there’s always going to be the suspicion of foul play given our history with France.
As it turned out, the file was later rediscovered in what this paper described as ‘unexplained circumstances’. An unfortunate error? A cavalier attitude within the French Judiciary regarding Genocide cases?
We cannot be sure but it’s not a good look for Paris, especially as France has never extradited a single Genocide suspect to Rwanda.
This Sunday was Easter and as many went to church services to celebrate the resurrection of Christ, I could not help but think of another big evil player in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. The Vatican, in my opinion, deserves as much opprobrium [maybe even more] as the French because it lays claim to a moral high ground.
An institution that preaches and provides guidance to so many Rwandans and confidently asserts its divine cachet has often been accused of protecting its killer clergymen and women. Not forgetting that their churches were the scenes of some of the worst acts of genocide in 1994, which raises a lot of unpleasant questions about what variation of the Christian message was being preached at the time.
So here we are 18 years on. French courts lose case files and never extradite any suspects, the Catholic Church tiptoes around its own role in the Genocide preferring to act like it was just an innocent and badly misunderstood bystander, and the ICTR archives may be kept outside of Rwanda when it’s done with its trials.
There’s been some improvement in the way the international community has handled the aftermath of the Genocide but there’s still a lot to frown about.
Ultimately, whenever this week comes around each year we are forced to confront the reality that this was a genocide committed by a government that had decided that extermination was a valid card in its quest to preserve power.
The genocide has sometimes been described as a result of ‘long-standing tribal feuds’ [by the racists] and other times as a last desperate gambit by the extremists in power. It was neither. It was the logical conclusion of a nation founded on exclusion and where some were considered less than citizens, indeed sub-human.
In a strange reversal, it has now become quite fashionable in some circles to criticise Rwanda for not acknowledging ethnicity in its politics.
This is supposed to render this country unstable. Thirty-five years of political ethnicity led to a genocide and despite what Mr. Mitterrand thought at the time, this matters to us so much that Rwanda will not try the same recipe to get a different result.