– DAVID versus GOLIATH: “A momentous confrontation”


Alan March 2009 (2)By Alan Simons

NOVEMBER 14, 2008 -There’s an article in today’s Los Angeles Times that Jews can clearly identify with.

It’s written by Stephen Kinzer a former New York Times foreign correspondent who currently teaches international studies at Northwestern University in the U.S.

rwanda_wideweb__470x3070Kinzer writes about Rwanda’s decision to confront France head on and bring to the forefront once and for all France’s despicable role in their country’s genocide.

“Rwanda’s racist Hutu regime welcomed French influence and support for three decades, and France sent troops to its defense when the Tutsi-led rebels’ revolution began in 1990. Even at the height of the genocidal rampage in early 1994, France sent planeloads of weaponry to arm the murderous regime. Once the rebel army gained control, France (with United Nations approval) established a protected zone in eastern Rwanda for government leaders and the killers who worked for them. More than 1 million people flooded in. France then arranged for them to move across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo (then known as Zaire), along with their helicopters, armored personnel carriers and other tools of war.”

Kinzer says:

“The arrest of a high-ranking Rwandan official in Europe on Sunday marked the sudden escalation of a high-stakes diplomatic battle. It may lead to an unprecedented showdown in a Paris courtroom at which French and Rwandan leaders will accuse each other of provoking the 1994 genocide in which more than 800,000 people were slaughtered.

Rose Kabuye, chief of protocol for Rwandan President Paul Kagame, was arrested in Frankfurt, Germany, on an international warrant issued in France. This was not, as it may have seemed, a simple case of an African thug being brought to justice by righteous Europeans.”

Kinzer adds:

“The Rwandan government evidently has decided to confront France’s charges head-on rather than leave them hanging indefinitely.

Rather than being cowed, though, Kagame has raised the ante at every turn. Rwanda broke off diplomatic relations with France after the indictments and then established a commission to investigate France’s role in the genocide. After months of hearings, that commission concluded that France’s support for the genocide “was of a political, military, diplomatic and logistic nature” and named high-ranking French officials who should be brought before international tribunals.

As if this impertinence was not enough, Rwanda officially applied to join the British Commonwealth, and Kagame was photographed in London with Queen Elizabeth. Then, last month, Kagame announced that English would replace French as Rwanda’s official second language.”

kagame_queenIn short, Kinzer believes “Kagame is doing something no African leader has ever dared: pulling his French-speaking country out of the Francophonie and into the world of the dreaded Anglo Saxons.”

Jews and Rwandans

Jews throughout the world have, over the past years, come to identify themselves with Rwandans. Many Jews have close personal relationships with Rwandans living in their community. Holocaust and genocide survivors regularly meet each other. In Canada, the Canadian Jewish Congress was the first organization internationally to bring Holocaust and genocide survivors together, to talk and to share their experiences. (See site below). And Israel, as the 1994 genocide concluded, was one of the first countries, if not the first, to arrive in Rwanda with medical aid.

According to Kinzer, “The stage is set for what could be a momentous confrontation. France accuses Kabuye of involvement in the 1994 presidential assassination that set off Rwanda’s 100 days of slaughter; she not only rejects that charge, she hopes to use the trial to present Rwanda’s powerful case against France.”

David versus Goliath indeed. I’ll put my money on David.


Top photo: Source unknown

Bottom photo: H.E. President Kagame and Mrs Kagame meet with Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace (Source- Government of Rwanda)




The recent arrest in Frankfurt, Germany, of the chief of protocol of the President of Rwanda, Rose Kabuye, has brought to a head the protracted political battle between France and Rwanda since the end of the genocide in Rwanda and the coming into power of the RPF/RPA in 1994.

Her trial for  alleged genocide will be both about the uses  and abuses of international law; unfortunately it may be more of the latter than the former. Who can try whom?

The previous genocidaire regime of President Juvenal 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 these leaders denied pluralism and freedom of expression and punished any indication of dissent from their citizens harshly, 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  then President Mitterrand’s son, who was also  his father’s top adviser on Africa. 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 France-Africa summits used to be held in the shadow of the OAU, so that whatever consensus the Africans reached could be undone  from Paris. France’s claim to being a global power rested on the loyalty of its African neo-colonial allies, with very few exceptions.

A classic case is current Senegal President Abdulaye Wade who used to come at election times to taunt then President Senghor, but soon after the election he would 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 confrontations that was to force France to reconsider its neo-colonial project in Africa. On October 1, 1990, rebel Rwandese soldiers who had been refugees in Uganda and in many cases, part of the Ugandan Army (NRA), launched an attack on Rwanda. Their aim was to return to the country where their parents had been forced to flee as a result of genocide, aided and abetted by the Belgians and French.

It was a David-Goliath battle and no one gave the rebels any odds of winning. Even Uganda, their only backer, initially believed that 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.

Painstaking process

Fugitives and refugees came together and the former held sway in the camps, but also had the support of the crumbling state of Mobutu Sese Seko. France could not forgive the RPF/A in Rwanda and two years later, another French ally, Mobutu was removed from power by a coalition of regional military alliances led by Rwanda and Uganda.

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 off 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 nine other top RPA officials for bringing down Habyarimana’ s plane.

Even if this was true (and only the French and former genocidaire elements and genocide denials insist on this) 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.

Some of them are now overcompensating by pouring aid into Rwanda and also being too cautious or ashamed to lecture Kagame’s regime on democracy and human rights. 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, 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.

But now that they have got Lt Colonel Kabuye 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.

Rwanda has its own list of wanted people and indicted French soldiers and politicians, which no one is helping it to enforce. Instead of confessing its sins and demonstrating genuine remorse before asking for forgiveness, France is demanding absolution through judicial vendetta.

Tajudeen Abdul Raheem

Ed. Note: Tajudeen Abdul Raheem is Deputy Director, Africa – United Nations Millennium Campaign


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