FRANCE-RWANDA : The Ugly Face of the French Republic Part 3. Progressively Breaking Away. By Théophane Kizi. Article published in Billets D’Afrique N° 174, November 2008

(published 6 November 2008)

In preparation of the 15th Commemoration of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, every month from here until then, Billets d’Afrique will be opening its columns to people who continue to seek an answer to the terrifying question of France’s complicity in this tragedy. Théophane Kizi is a Rwandan citizen and regular reader of Billets d’Afrique. In this contribution he shares his impressions with us.

In November 2006 as a follow up to the international arrest warrants issued by French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière against 9 civilian and military personalities, Rwanda recalled its Paris ambassador and closed the French diplomatic mission in Kigali. Rwanda reacted against a biased judicial inquiry and an unjustified decision. This first decoupling from the Francophone pole was not motivated by either economic or commercial considerations. To understand Rwanda’s reaction we cannot ignore what constitutes the backdrop, namely the genocide of 1994. The vehemence employed by the French government against the military leaders of the rebellion who fought and defeated the forces responsible for the genocide of 1994 seemed specious confronted with France’s record of inaction when it came to arresting perpetrators living within her own territory. For having supported Habyarimana’s regime by not publicly denouncing his acts, a number of French military officers and politicians are suspected of complicity in genocide. At the issue of the Mucyo report, the report of the national inquiry commission into the role played by France in the genocide of 1994, the Rwandan government drew up a list of 33 French personalities whose official conduct should be investigated by the public prosecution and who should be brought to court if the inquiries confirm the allegations of the commission members. It is now nearly 12 years back that the French parliamentary information mission published its report on the same subject. At the time the Quilès report (named after Paul Quilès, president of the commission) concluded in the blindness or lack of vigilance on the part of France’s decision makers and actions at the limit of engagement on the part of our military forces in the conflict. The report admitted to no legally reprehensible conduct. It is regrettable that over the last 15 years the radicalism of the divergence between Paris and Kigali as well the gravity of the subject-a genocide- has not been the object of any debate within the Francophone family.

Just before the last summit meeting of Francophone countries in Canada, Rwanda announced that it was thinking about substituting English as the language to be used in schools instead of French which has been in use for over 70 years ever since the creation of public schools. The argument is incontestable. In order to accompany and successfully achieve integration into the East African region, the education system of Rwanda should allow its future generations to master English. A look at the map clearly shows that Rwanda naturally belongs to the East African space. An absence of strong ties to the neighbouring states of Tanzania and Kenya would enclave Rwanda and condemn it to underdevelopment. The Eastern area, open to world trade via the Indian Ocean is constructing unions and dynamic communities with promising potential for development where English is the only working language.

France standing at attention

The Francophone areas west of Rwanda do not offer comparable advantages. The DRC Congo is bogged down by seemingly endless crisis. The Atlantic coast is too far away. And as we have seen, it doesn’t look like our interrupted relations with France, the motor of western Francophone Africa are going to be reconnected any time soon.

In order to dodge the slightest responsibility in what happened to Rwanda France swears by her honor and advances the separation of the executive branches to avoid taking measures against the international warrants issued by the judge Jean-Louis Bruguière.

For Kigali, Bruguière’s conclusions are all the more unacceptable because he attempts to inverse the roles of guilt by blaming the Rwandan Popular Front movement who were the victims as well as the liberators for the fateful crash and the launching of the genocide. Renewing relations would mean that one party or the other should submit to the judgment of the contending faction or that each party should take the necessary steps towards the other to enable some kind of encounter. The second alternative is more likely. The French executive should at least admit to its blindness and failure to recognize the obvious risks inherent in supporting a State that was preparing genocide. Nevertheless it is difficult to see how the French executive could promise the government of Rwanda that it will order its Public Prosecution to annul the arrest warrants.

According to the abiding rules, it couldn’t, but judging from all the serious defects and insufficiencies of these notorious circulars, the prosecutor’s office might honorably consider withdrawing the warrants from circulation until the judges can visit the site of the crash, inspect the plane’s debris, examine the persons indicted and be capable of identifying the suspects more precisely. France may “only” be asking Rwanda to renew diplomatic relations by reopening both embassies in Paris and Kigali, but can the Rwandan government go back on its decision as long as the causes for the rupture remain?

One More Tie Removed from the Binds of Franco Rwandan relations

Except that, given the very gravity of the problems between the two countries, they have to find some kind of form or formula for establishing a framework of diplomatic relations to ensure an ongoing dialogue. The latest decision of Kigali concerning the French language goes a long way to removing one more tie which in the past bound both countries; in any case the separation has been accentuated. Rwanda has affirmed its difference and is turning away from a family within whose midst it no longer feels in phase since nearly 15 years. The fundamental question posed by the attitude of the Rwandan authorities towards the French language is a question of values and ethics. Rwanda knows perfectly well that a language is not just the key to access markets and make business contact. If the Rwandan authorities want their children to master English in view of facilitating the integration into an east African regional market, the measures it will take to preserve the French heritage will depend heavily on the value the government accords to this heritage.

Théophane Kizi

(Translated by AZ)

Note : For the original version of this article as well as other commentaries please consult the French Billets d’Afrique rubric of this website

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