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Rwanda report raises issue of motive

By Martin Plaut
BBC News

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame (file image 2006)
The two-year investigation was commissioned by the Kigali authorities
A Rwandan report naming 33 senior French military and political figures for their alleged role in the 1994 genocide raises a number of issues.

For the French there is the problem of how to deal with the commission's detailed allegations against eminent figures.

Late President Francois Mitterrand, former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur, as well as two men who went on to become prime minister - Alain Juppe, foreign minister at the time, and his then chief aide, Dominique de Villepin - are all accused of having had a hand in such terrible events.

Allegations of this kind have been made before.

The French military were certainly involved in advising the Rwandan army prior to the genocide and their precise role during the genocide is far from clear.

Yet the fact that Rwanda has decided to publish such a damning report, making such detailed allegations against another country, makes the report extremely unusual.

Diversion tactic?

It certainly raises questions about Rwanda's motivation in taking this step.

Rwanda genocide survivor praying next to skulls (file picture)
Some 800,000 people died in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda
The public reason given is a search for justice.

As Rwanda's Minister of Justice Tharcisse Karugarama put it to the BBC, those responsible for the Jewish Holocaust are still being hunted down decades after World War II, so why should we rest while the people behind the genocide are still at large?

But other reasons have spurred Rwanda to take this step.

Chief among them has been an iron determination to keep the world's attention focused on the genocide, rather than on the role of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), the force that took power in 1994, bringing President Paul Kagame to power.

In recent years uncomfortable questions have been raised about the war crimes the RPF are alleged to have committed during and after 1994.

While stressing there can be no equation between genocide and war crimes, Alison Des Forges of Human Rights Watch says RPF leaders do have a case to answer.

"Their victims also deserve justice," she says.

The case against the RPF:

  • The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda was mandated to look at all crimes committed in 1994, yet with their mandate supposed to run out by the end of this year they have so far failed to indict any members of the RPF.
  • In 2006 a French judge, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, issued arrest warrants against nine of President Paul Kagame's senior officials, alleging their complicity in the murder of the late Rwandan President, Juvenal Habyarimana, in April 1994 - the event that sparked off the genocide.
  • And in February 2008 a Spanish judge, Fernando Andreu, issued international arrest warrants against 40 senior Rwandan officials for crimes allegedly committed in the 1990s.

Painful questions

There is also a political dimension.

Since the RPF took power, relations with France have been distinctly cool.

President Kagame and his closest associates come from a group of English-speaking Tutsi refugees who grew up in Uganda.

The country has moved away from the French sphere of influence in Africa and towards the Anglophone bloc.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is now an adviser of President Kagame, and former American President Bill Clinton is a close friend.

Rwanda believes it does not need France and feels free to raise painful questions about Paris's role in the genocide.



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