France's Double Defeat in the Heart of Africa

French judicial arrogance toward Rwanda may backfire and cannot mask the fact that the recent Great Lake wars have seen France defeated twice by African armies: in Zaire and Rwanda. Times have changed, and French politicians should take these defeats as a warning: if they insist on prolonging colonial rule in disguise, the French could face an African Dien-Bien-Phu in the future:   

'Tiny' Rwanda was one of the first bitter lessons that were to force France to reconsider its neocolonial project in Africa. On the 1 October 1990, rebel Rwandan soldiers who had been refugees in Uganda -- and many of them part of the Uganda NRA army (National Resistance Army) -- launched [an] 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 their only backer Uganda 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 RPF/RPA 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 giving away too much. There were divisions within the ruling MRND (Mouvement républicain national pour le développement et la démocratie) 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 Uwilingiyimana and other prominent Hutus began and in 100 days 1,000,000 Rwandans 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 RPF/RPA 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 Opération Turquoise which provided the defeated army opportunity to regroup while the Interahamwe was able to march 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/RPA 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 winds of democratic change were 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 égalité and fraternité drowned as it was in the blood of innocent Africans as a result of 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 and was therefore of the view that it must have been 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.


Pambazuka News

November 13, 2008

--Tajudeen Abdul-Raheem is general secretary of the Global Pan-African Movement, based in Kampala, Uganda, and is also director of Justice Africa, based in London, U.K.

France might prefer to refuse to apologize for organizing the Rwandan genocide in the 1990's, but it would seem in its best interest to at least keep a low profile. The unwarranted arrest of Rose Kabuye might turn into a golden opportunity to show the world the ugly face of French imperialism in Africa:  

As France prepares to try Rose Kabuye, judge Bruguière's "case" is falling apart.

France is in a fix on the Rose Kabuye issue.

Jean Louis Bruguière -- the judge who in his vendetta-fevered mind went as far as gathering "testimony" from the likes of Theoneste Bagosora and Hassan Ngeze to "prove" that members of the current Rwandan administration killed Habyarimana -- finally got one leader (out of a possible nine) arrested on his concocted charges.

But now it looks more and more like the fellow's arrest warrants have become boomerangs that could do more damage to him and his government than the intended victims.

In the few weeks since President Kagame's chief of protocol Rose Kabuye was arrested in Frankfurt and transported to Paris, Bruguière's case, if it can be called that, has been falling apart spectacularly.

To begin with, no independent investigation offers a lead as to who the real culprit in the shooting down of the aircraft carrying Juvenal Habyarimana and his friends was or were. Secondly, Mrs. Kabuye never was anywhere near Mr. Kagame when the latter allegedly planned the assassination. Thirdly, Abdul Ruzibiza the principal witness of Bruguière has come out of the woodwork to categorically state all the things he said concerning Habyarimana's death were lies; concoctions to get a conniving judge like Bruguière help him go to Europe. Possibly for a better life (though Ruzibiza doesn't say so).

Bruguière has sold his government a bum steer (as the Americans say), but since he has retired as a judge and actively is in politics -- which he always was even under the guise of a judge -- other poor magistrates are saddled with the task he originally set himself. To try to pin a crime, using a monstrous falsehood, on a bunch of people who actually stopped a genocide that was planned and was the handiwork of the dead Habyarimana and cohorts like Bagosora. You can't begin to think of such a plotline if you were writing a book of fiction.

The judges who have to pick up after Bruguière can't bring themselves to try Rose Kabuye so they are offering her bail on the following condition: she can walk about freely in France and even return to Rwanda if she so wishes.

It is as if these people are saying, please just go back home and forget the whole thing and we will let it drop quietly.

Rwanda however wants the lady tried. They basically are saying, go ahead and we will expose your shame-faced falsehoods; you began this thing and therefore it has to come to its logical conclusion. Which is recall and refute your bogus indictments and warrants, and while you are at it how about a few words of apology to Rwandans for participating in the 94 Genocide?

French Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Kouchner has been quoted in his country's media saying Mrs. Kabuye's trial will "improve relations between his country and Rwanda." Rwandans checking in by email are unanimous in calling this "the usual French arrogance."


Everything indicates Rwanda is about to inflict a humiliating judicio-diplomatic defeat on a powerful former colonial master of much of Africa.

A few days back it looked to any Parisian (who normally follows politics) that the trial of a high profile Rwanda government official could only lead to one thing: badly restricted movement for a good number of its officials who either currently or formerly served in the military and that any judge in France or elsewhere in Europe could wake up to issue indictments against any African as they so wish.

This perception no longer is there. Instead it looks more and more like France's strutting around Africa like some colonial lord all these years after colonialism will reduce, significantly.

In international diplomatic [circles] it is known France punches above its weight and it claims "great power" status due to the influence it still exerts over huge swathes of the continent known as Francophone Africa and the favorable trade, commercial, and cultural advantages it extracts from those poor countries.

Should the French lose in the Kabuye court case it will be a tough psychological blow to recover from. It will mean any African country can openly challenge them; call their bluff, fight them in court and choose its path to future development and in so doing prove you don't have to depend on France to survive.

This is what Mr. Kagame and his government have been doing for the past 14 years.

To break free of French influence; such an example to the rest of Francophone Africa is what Paris has been dreading for a long time, and it is one of the two major reasons Paris has been so hostile to this government for the past 14 years.

Gerald Prunier, a Franco-Canadian academic writes in *The Rwanda Crisis: History of a Genocide*, his seminal work on the 94 Genocide, that French dread and resentment of anything perceived to be a threat to the French language and culture knows no bounds.

He continues that in no other circumstance is this resentment greater than when the perceived enemy speaks English, other than French.

The other major source of French hostility to President Kagame and his government is the fact -- well-documented now in a number of scholarly and journalistic works, and the independent commission set up to probe France's role in the Genocide -- that they intervened to prop up a genocidal regime and actively participated in planning (and even in a few cases executing) the Genocide, but despite these efforts the RPF defeated their client regime.

November 30, 2008


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