Barely a fortnight after Rwanda and France had agreed to restore diplomatic relations, Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Affairs Minister was in Kigali.
Among the things Kouchner did was visit Nyanza Genocide memorial centre at Kicukiro and listed among France’s priority areas as the reopening of the French embassy, French Cultural centre and French School in Kigali.
He told Rwandans that two French Judges had been appointed to examine the cases of suspected criminals in the genocide against the Tutsi resident in France and about what should be explained to the French people on the history of the two countries he said, “We were very far and we didn’t understand…”
Mr. Kouchner has been in Rwanda before but I guess the most memorable time is in the middle of the Genocide when he visited Kigali as the head of the NGO Doctors without Borders.
He surely jumped some dead bodies of the victims of the genocide, the handwork of people now resident in France, in Kigali and on his way to the Genocidaires’s camps in the then Zaire.
Whereas Kouchner’s interest then was to “airlift Rwandan orphans” to Europe certainly he could not have “been very far” to know that there was a group of people who were hunted and killed because of their ethnicity. One would expect the French authorities to, in light of the rapprochement in relations, be forthcoming particularly with the truth.
One would expect Kouchner to show remorse that the truth had eluded French authorities and caused pain to survivors and that there was willingness henceforth to say the truth and set the records straight.
The French are still unwilling to accept what they did in Rwanda and this kills any excitement about their return because they cannot cover the past by starting new relationships as if that was the problem in the first place.
The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has been in operation for over a decade in Arusha, Tanzania. Many suspected criminals indicted by the tribunal are living free in France.
The fact that French authorities have appointed two French Judges to “examine” cases of suspected genocide criminals smacks of arrogance and disrespect for Rwanda as a nation, its people and its laws and disregard for international conventions; after all genocide is not a crime under national penal codes but a crime against humanity.
By shielding criminals indicted by the internationally appointed ICTR, are not the French hiding something? Can two Judges, French or otherwise do a better job than that of the ICTR? Must suspected criminals on French soil wait for the French to pass certain laws before they can be tried? The returning French have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
The returning French are eager to reopen the French cultural centre in Kigali. The French have a right to believe in their culture but someone needs to tell them that Rwandans have a culture they too are very proud of.
In the past Rwandans copied the French culture, they worked fewer hours, wallowed in poverty and starved to death particularly in Bugesera and Gikongoro.
If there is anything the people of Rwanda need is not imports in foreign culture; it was imported for decades and the results were not good. Haiti has the distinction of being the most prominent independent French speaking country in the Western Hemisphere but is also the poorest and politically most unstable.
A French cultural centre in Port au Prince and a Haitian Cultural centre in Paris would help nationals of both countries appreciate each other’s culture better.
According to Mr. Kouchner, the French want to “normalize relationship” with Rwanda. If there is a country that enjoys “normal relations” with France is Central African Republic (CAR).
The relationship is so that French troops and fighter aircrafts are permanently stationed there and are used to topple or prop up African rulers in other African countries.
Despite the normal relationship between France and CAR residents in large parts of the latter are left to devise their means of survival in the face of bandits and under development. Another country which enjoyed normal relations with France is Ivory Coast with arms and military cooperation as the hallmark of that relationship. One day, like a raving savage, the French bombed and destroyed the whole Air-force of the Ivorians.
In fact few countries that enjoy “normal relations” with France manage the security of their citizens or their unity and that is because the French will decide who will be coroneted to rule or who will be the leader of the armed insurrection, breakaway region/island or coup leader. That relationship does not sound exiting.
The return of the French would be exciting if they joined hands with the international community to condemn the crimes against humanity carried out in eastern Congo and arrested some of the most virulent hate propagandists and perpetrators and plotters of these crimes.
There can be no solution to suffering of people in eastern Congo as long as people who fund these atrocities and sell the results of pillage are living in the comfort and under protection provided by the French authority.
France has been known for keeping relations with African criminal regimes at the expense of suffering and neglected masses.
If their return to Rwanda is to carry any meaning, reducing the suffering of people not only in Congo but anywhere should be a priority of the French otherwise they were here before and they flew pets and killers to France and abandoned people at the hands of killers.
Rwandans may need many things but the French school, high on the agenda of returning French, may not be one of them.
The use of French language, which is in its evening in Rwanda, may not be a priority for many Rwandans; after all we spoke it for years and yet development eluded us.
We ate mayonnaise and brochette and spoke and behaved like Parisians and like all French speaking Africans we lived in an imaginary world. We believed that the more one spoke French like someone from Paris, the more that person was developed.
Maybe the French school will teach English and Deutsch; that way they will enhance the ability of Rwandans to communicate with the wider world.
If French as a language has benefits to Africans, Guineans, Chadians, DR Congolese, Ivorians and others would be speaking it and solutions to their countries’ quagmires would be history.