The recent arrest in Frankfurt, Germany, of the Chief of Protocol of the President of Rwanda, Lt Colonel Rose Kabuye, has brought to a head the protracted political battle between France and Rwanda since the end of Genocide in Rwanda and the coming into power of the RPF/RPA in 1994.
Her trial will be both about the uses and abuses of international law but unfortunately it may be more of the latter than the former. Who can try whom?
The Previous genocidaire regime of President Habyarimana was a most trusted French ally even among the abundant French lackeys in Africa of the post /neo colonial/cold war era.
France’s neo-colonial interests in Africa were not just at the economic, political, security and intelligence levels, but at personal and social levels with many of the leaders.
Many of them denied pluralism and freedom of expression and punished harshly, any indication of dissension to their citizens, but when it came to relations with France they were cross party.
It did not matter whether it was the conservatives or the ‘Socialists’, whether the government was the result of cohabitation or alliances of the Right or the Left, the Francophone leaders maintained their alliance and influence in Paris.
The French establishment also had remarkable continuity in its Africa policy.
Habyarimana was a close family friend of former President Mitterrand’s son who was also the top Adviser to his Father on Africa!
France had such close relationship with its former colonies that its colonial rival, Britain, envied it.
France successfully intervened militarily, changed governments, removed and later restored ‘errant’ Presidents like disposable towels: David Dacko or Jean Bedel Bokassa in Central Africa, Hussein Habre in Chad to mention just two countries Britain had the same ambitions but was not really as successful at it as its Parisian cousins.
French citizens held senior positions in many of the former French colonies in very sensitive ministries and departments including security, intelligence, the presidential guards, finance, defence, etc. It used to be said that the old OAU was in reality a Franco-Africa Forum.
At the height of the cold war the French–Africa Summits used to be held in the shadow of the OAU so that whatever consensus the Africans reached can be undone by diktat from Paris.
France’s claim to being a global power rested on the loyalty of its African neo-colonial allies who, with very few exceptions (Algeria and Guinea-Conakry, ater radical leaders like Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso broke ranks with tragic consequences), will vote for it at the UN/UN Security Council or even in the OAU or the ECOWAS.
On its part it guaranteed the longetivity of the dictators whether their citizens like them or not. Even many of the opposition leaders in these countries were of the same frame of mind. They wanted to replace their rivals as the Darling of Paris not to renegotiate the unequal terms.
A classic case is President Abdulaye Wade who used to come at election times to taunt former President Senghor but soon after the election he will retire home to Versailles until the wind of change of the 1990s broke the unholy alliance and France began a forcible retreat from Africa.
‘Tiny’ Rwanda was one of the first bitter lessons that were to force France to reconsider its neo-colonial project in Africa.
October 1 1990, rebel Rwandese soldiers who had been refugees in Uganda and many of them part of the Uganda army (NRA) launched attack on Rwanda with the aim of returning to the country where their parents had been forced into exile as a result of genocide aided and abetted by the Belgians and the French. It was a David and Goliath battle and no one gave the rebels any chance.
Even Uganda that was their only backer initially believed that the military pressure was necessary to force the Habyarimana government to negotiate with the rebels, integrate them into the army, and stop the government from discriminating against its own citizens or killing them. No one thought that the RPA/F could ever capture power. Hence the negotiations for peace under the auspices of the OAU in Arusha.
It was a painstaking process but by the time the final documents were signed in Arusha both the political and military situation had overtaken the negotiations.
Extremists within the Akazu (family cabal) that Habyarimana was hostage to accused him of giving away too much. There were divisions within the ruling MRND and the various ruling cliques.
It was the blasting furnace of a house divided against itself that Habyarimana was returning to from Arusha (with Burundi’s President) when his plane was brought down with parts of it falling on his luscious presidential gardens.
Within hours genocide against the minority Tutsi population and non genocidaire so called Moderate Hutus including the Prime Minister, Agathe and other prominent Hutus began and in 100 days 1,000,000 Rwandese had been slaughtered by the Interahamwe militia with the full backing and orchestration of their own leaders.
The State was against its own people. Against all odds the RPA/F ended Genocide, defeated the army that was backed by France, Belgium and some African countries in June 1994.
To forestall total defeat the French launched OPERATION TORQUOISE which provided the defeated army opportunity to regroup and the Interahamwe was able to match people from Rwanda into the Congo.
Fugitives and refugees came together and the former held sway in the camps but also had the support of the crumbling State of Mobutu.
France could not forgive the RPF/A in Rwanda and two years later another French ally, Mobutu, (supposedly leading the largest Francophone country in the world!) was removed from power by a coalition of regional military alliance led by Rwanda and Uganda.
France could neither save Habyarimana nor Mobutu. Meanwhile post cold war wind of democratic changes was sweeping across the rest of Africa including former French colonies making France unsure of its role.
It lost its nerves and was no longer able to proclaim its idealism of Liberté, Egalité, and Fraternité drowned in the innocent blood of innocent Africans consequent to its alliance with some of the most brutal regimes across Africa.
Instead of reading the signs of the times, it fell back on the colonial default of rivalry with the British and their American cousins.
It could not accept that African armies defeated it in both Rwanda and Zaire therefore it must be the CIA and the British, a smokescreen that many Africans unfortunately swallowed.
This is not to say that the British and the Americans and other vested interests were not involved but the essential root and initial solution to the conflicts were dictated by Africans.
The politics of my enemy’s enemy is my friend later propelled different kinds of convenient alliances. But both Mobutu and Habyarimana were consumed by the fires of xenophobia and genocide that they ignited.
Since 1994 France has been trying to wash its conscience of the genocide in Rwanda through denial and counter narrative.
Finally in 2006 a judge sitting in some obscure village in France issued an indictment against President Kagame and 9 other top RPA officials for bringing down Habyarimana’s plane.
Even if that was true, for which only the French has the evidence, how did the plane crash lead to Genocide if genocide was not being planned already?
Have people forgotten the famous Fax to the UN saying ‘...... we will all be killed’ which was never acted upon?
The government of Rwanda and its military and political allies principally the French and Belgians, the OAU, Clinton’s White House, the UK government, the UN, the Security Council and most of the powerful people and countries and institutions who could have prevented the genocide failed the people of Rwanda.
But the French have not only been reluctant to accept their complicity they have been shamelessly but tirelessly trying to nail Kagame and reverse the defeat he inflicted on them, not once but twice, and accelerating their retreat from Africa.
Politically they have continued to provide cover for genocidaire elements who still believe that they could return to power in Kigali.
Whatever our opinion of Kagame’s regime, we should not be deceived that the French indictments have anything to do with justice. It is the guilt trip of a former imperial power whose hands are drenched with the blood of innocent Africans.
But now that they have got Lt Colonel Rose who went to Germany knowing full well that she could be arrested, it is a challenge to the French to put their much vaunted evidence in the public domain. She has shown extreme courage by insisting that she should be tried in France.
The same France that has not cooperated with the ICTR in Arusha trying the Genocidaire suspect leaders is putting all efforts on knowing who killed the Chief Genocidaire.
The same France along with Belgium and other countries including Germany and some African countries that is still harbouring many of the leaders of the genocide is now indicting those who ended the genocide.
Germany, a country that should be more sympathetic to victims of genocide given its own tragic history, has shown where its sympathies lies by arresting Lt Col Kabuye and in the same week releasing two FDLR leaders accused of orchestrating continuing war against Rwanda.
Rwanda has its own list of wanted people and indicted French soldiers and politicians which no one is helping it to enforce, but France can indict and arrest whoever it pleases. Germany can arrest one suspect and set others free.
What kind of international law is this? And for how long must poachers continue to play game park keepers?
How can there be respect for International law when powerful countries treat its principles like a la carte menu?
Instead of confessing its sins, demonstrating genuine remorse before asking for forgiveness, France is demanding absolution through judicial vendetta.