By Erasme Rugemintwaza

What does France want in Rwanda and what does Rwanda want from France (not France)? A question that everyone would ask considered the diplomatic war between these two countries that lasts 27 years ago! We will analyze the diplomatic relations which at one time were called Franco-Rwandan friendships to perish one day and turn our two doves into earthenware dogs. Diplomatic relations that will be measured by another unit of measurement: the dark period that went through the Land of the Thousand Hills and the thousand problems, between 1990-1994. But what do the four reports of experts made under the command of these friends who have become “enemies”, who have marked this war both diplomatically and mediatic, say, a war that is currently showing signs of a lull! Four reports like shells, two on the account on each side!

A story that mortgages the fate of an entire people

The history of Rwanda in the 20th Century was marked by the French-speaking and Francophile spirit cultivated by the Belgian colonist. Even before France’s arrival in Rwanda, this Country of Thousand Hills was treated as a country of the French. This francophonie and Francophilia often excessive will mark generations for almost a century (1916-1994). French civilization will filter itself into all strata of social, political and economic life.  In pre-1994 primary schools homework was only two: the French language and mathematics! Even the farmer at the market knew how to set the prices of his potatoes or bananas in French! After Rwanda’s independence in 1962, Belgium lost its hegemony in Rwanda. Since then, the embassies have developed real Franco-Rwandan diplomatic relations, capped by military cooperation, often seasoned with private friendships of presidential families. Habyarimana and Mitterrand formed a tandem of “brothers” like that of France-Germany in the reconstruction of Europe. Here is Rwanda, francized to the marrow, against which Paul Kagame, who uttered his first official sentence in French on April 4, 2017, will launch an expedition of conquest, on October 1, 1990. In his small but profound sentence of meaning “Facts are stubborn”, Kagame wanted to show that France’s enmity against him is like a cancer that recurs. A well-closed field and very hostile to any English-speaking intruder. But Rwanda is thanks to its geographical position, a gateway or a barrier to the Democratic Republic of Congo, the great Zaire, a country with natural wealth coveted by the powers and moreover, the first French-speaking country after France. All this indicates how France should not leave its cozy bed to the Anglo-Saxons. Paul Kagame knew very well the boldness of his business, but he had behind him Uganda, protectorate of the Anglo-Saxons according to which he was a Christian country that had to be protected from Muslim fundamentalism and the terrorism of the Horn of Africa to which the Americans had just tasted. France’s attitude to Rwanda, its presence on the front line against the RPF- Inkotanyi was only legal and legitimate. His Operation Turquoise is in the same philosophy: can one abandon the orphans of a friend he has not been able to protect, in front of a furious lion which has just lost its babies to whom he hoped to share the spoils of the hunt? Without too much fanaticism, France’s presence in Rwanda in this period of 1990-1994 should be analyzed taking all these elements into account. And without a doubt nor sentimentalism, Paul Kagame attacked France, knowing it, wanting it!

Incendiary reports!

After the conquest of power in Kigali, the RPF carried fresh the wounds of the war, and thus France, which threw mortar shells at it! ! The grudge and resentment against France was at its height. And always, when the opportunity arose, Paul Kagame poured out a feverish hatred against France. No commemoration of the Genocide could pass without publicly proclaiming France as an accomplice. The tension was at its peak, the bursting latent, it was enough a simple spark to light the fuse!

The political escalation between France and Rwanda over the 1994 Genocide was at its height with the indictment of the Kigali regime. In fact, in charge of investigating the attack on the plane of President Juvénal Habyarimana and his Burundian counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira, on 06 April 1994 attack which, nolens volens, led to the outbreak of genocide against the Tutsi – anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguière issued the warrants for international arrests against the Kagame’s nine close associates. Judge Bruguière accused Kagame of eliminating President Habyarimana in order to achieve his political ends. The warrants will be issued on 22/11/2006, against nine people, without Kagame, who was protected by immunity. All the judicial proceedings were endorsed by the French government and validated by the Paris prosecutor’s office. The nine are almost all military personnel who held senior positions in the Rwandan Defence Forces, including three generals, General James Kabarebe, Chief of Staff of the Rwandan Defence Forces, General Faustin-Kayumba Nyamwasa, Ambassador to India (currently in disgrace and opponent of Kagame), General Charles Kayonga, Head of the Army and a female Colonel Rose Kabuye Director General of State Protocol.

The warrants will cause a great outcry in Rwanda’s political class. The Bruguière case was considered an insult, and will create the boomerang effect because in only a few days Kigali closed its embassy in Paris and drove out the French Embassy in Kigali, in an effervescence of popular demonstrations organized by the government! The red line was crossed, Paul Paul Kagame scoured with anger and the aftershock will not delay. This was the “Mucyo report.”

The report, which bore the name of Mucyo, then Attorney General of the Republic of Rwanda, is made in the spirit of playing draw with France.  Published on August 5, 2008, this report is a more virulent response than ever to the attack of Judge Bruguière. . The commission that was responsible for making this report had a name that did demonstrate the mission assigned to it. It was “the Independent National Commission tasked with gathering evidence showing the involvement of the French state in the preparation and execution of the genocide in Rwanda in 1994.” Let us note by passing that here the nominal syntagma of “genocide against the Tutsi” did not yet exist! The conclusion of the Mucyo report involved many French dignitaries, numbering 13, both civilian and military, in the preparation and execution of the genocide. The Mucyo report was a political offence against France, as was the Bruguière report against Rwanda. The report provoked a great deal of indignation in French circles who called it defamatory with falsifications of history and false testimony, made with the purpose of quashing warrants against Kigali. The Mucyo report opened above all possibility of legal action against France. What Mucyo once suggested was a kind of blackmail against France. He stated publicly that if France knew how to “make a gesture”, it was obviously a matter of “asking for forgiveness”, the whole file could go back to history and Franco-Rwandan diplomatic relations, resume. The match was then null and void, diplomatic relations likewise. The years pass, the attempts are made but still it is true that “we must leave time to time”

Towards the normalization of relations

From March 26, 2016 to April 19, 2021, a period of less than a month has just demonstrated that ” Where there’s a will there’s a way”. Two reports commissioned by French heads of state Emmanuel MACRON and Rwandan Paul KAGAME say a lot about this. It all starts in hexagon when ana young president wants to put an end to his country’s dark past, it’s Emmanuel Macron with his Republic on the march! In fact, when he was elected in 2017, Emmanuel Macron is looking at the Franco-Rwandan dispute and wants to put an end to this dark specter of genocide. This “macronian” impulse inspired Kagame, who in turn re-examined France’s case. And both almost simultaneously make similar commands.  Macron wants to question history through the “Commission Duclert”, but Kagame wants him to question the Law by the American lawyers of the Muse, because he knows very well that the conclusions of the Commission Mucyo were a deterrence or diversion «well-technicated». 

France blames itself!

In its report of 26 March 2021, the historian commission known as the “Research Commission on the French Archives relating to Rwanda and the genocide of Tutsi(1990-1994)” created by Macron to study the role of France and led by Vincent Duclert, concludes that there is “a heavy and overwhelming set of responsibilities” within the French state, while ruling out the idea of complicity in genocide. This conclusion has revolted some former authorities of France. Eduard Balladur, who was Prime Minister (1993-1995), fiercely defends that France has done something even if not fast enough. That responsibility for the genocide of the Tutsi must be imputed to other countries such as the United States, Belgium and even the United Nations, not to France. Despite his revolt at the conclusions that accuse France, he admits that the majority of the political class, including President François Mitterrand himself, was obsessed with a colonial vision and driven by a desire to support a friendly regime that nevertheless committed genocide. But if the facts established by the Duclert Commission are proven, they can constitute serious prejudice against France. The historian established the facts, it is up to the lawyers to extract the crimes!

But Kigali exculpates!

“The Rwandan report on France’s role in the 1994 Tutsi genocide” written by the law firm Lévy, Firestone and Muse, now Muse, documents France’s involvement while striving not to throw oil on the fire, in this context of appeasement between the two countries. It avoids reviving the old wounds of this litigation that lasts 27 years! In this report no word for “responsibility” or “complicity.” Kigali seems to be cleaning up Paris, which seems to be doing a mea culpa, and which has shown a willingness to turn this dark page and normalize relations since Macron entered the Elysee Palace in 2017. The Muse report refutes, however, certain Duclert agreements that suggest that the French state was blind and unconscious about the genocide. President Mitterrand’s colonial arrogance is glaring, Muse notes. And to conclude Kigali does not demand an apology from Paris.

 What’s behind this flip-flop of ideas?

In other words, what does France expect from Rwanda and what does Rwanda want from France? Simply behind this political craze looms political schemes. Rwanda is, for France, a geopolitical position to gain a presence in the countries of great lakes, for economic and cultural interests. From that this European superpower must cooing with Kigali and feeling guilty if necessary, instead of waiting to be blamed. A simple word of apology, from France, long awaited in Kigali, can sweep away all the litigation, as the late Jean de Dieu Mucyo said. Kigali, on the other hand, does not want any money or other material compensation; instead it wants the political support of France, an influential member of two major political communities, the UN and the EU. But if we look far away, this rapprochement of Kigali and Paris will lead to a contract of friendship built on the silence of the parties: Kigali’s silence on France’s likely role in the genocide against the Tutsi and France’s silence on the Hutu massacres, starting with the two presidents, the RPF and its acolytes. History will tell us whether such an alliance built on the blood of the innocent will resist!