UN report adds to President Sarkozy’s woes by threatening a “barter trade” arrangement with General Paul Kagame of Rwanda
A 600 page report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on crimes and human rights violations perpetrated during the Congo wars from 1996 to 2003, leaked to the press Thursday 26th August, has concluded that war crimes and crimes against humanity were committed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s and Congolese President Laurent Kabila’s forces against Hutus and that some of them were systematic, methodical and over a long period that they could constitute ‘crimes of genocide.’ The Rwandan forces were the spearhead of the forces that overthrew President Mobutu, after being disowned by his western backers, and controlled the security apparatus of the State: army, intelligence and Police.
It is obvious that the report will embarrass General Kagame’s close allies and it is also a big blow to the efforts of the French President Sarkozy and his Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to get commercial favour from General Kagame. It is hard to see how the French government would continue to push for favour from a regime alleged by a UN report to have committed a crime of genocide. This could in turn slow down the implementation of some of the terms of the agreement reached during Sarkozy visit to Rwanda in February 2010. It is reported that the political moves used to renew relations with the RPF government have divided the political class in France and infuriated the military. Given the past relations between Rwanda and France, to continue courting General Kagame would put France at risk of being accused once again of working with a leadership that has committed crimes of genocide.
The situation is going to be exploited by the Socialist party which Sarkozy accused of having made an error of judgment by helping the late President Habyarimana who was accused of having “planned” genocide against Tutsi in 1994.
This summer has not been particularly good for the French President who had wanted to distinguish himself from his predecessor by presenting himself as a person of integrity and probity. The puncture in the strategy came about when a French prosecutor started an investigation to establish whether Liliane Bettencourt, heiress of the L’Oréal fortune, had made illegal donations amounting to $190,000 in campaign for Nicolas Sarkozy’s presidential election in 2007.
Two members of his government resigned over allegations of misuse of public funds. They included the heads of the Secretary of State of Cooperation and the Secretary of State for the Greater Paris region.
In June 2010, the National Football Team was disgracefully knocked out of the world cup following disagreement within the team. What happened at the world cup was widely seen in France as a disgrace for the image of France.
The summer also witnessed the trial of the alleged €5bn rogue trader, Jerome Kerviel within the biggest and the most lucrative office development in Europe, La Défense. To compound the scandal, last year, its political leadership was almost given to Jean Sarkozy a 23-year-old law student, son of President Sarkozy.
Despite President Sarkozy being an ‘immigré’ himself from Hungary he embarked on the policy of expulsion of the Roma, allegedly to divert attention from the financial scandals. This followed a proposed change in the law on citizenship to make it possible to strip a non indigenous of nationality if he/she committed a crime. All these measures allegedly intended to divert attention from his financial scandals are said to be have backfired by being used by political rivals to discredit him.
Deals with General Paul Kagame for the share in the mineral wealth of the Great Lakes Region
The Central Africa Region including the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi, Central African Republic, and Congo Brazzaville had been for a long time the exclusive area of influence of France. The seizure of power by the RPF in Rwanda, with the support of the main rivals of France i.e. the US and the UK, led to the fall of the Democratic Republic of Congo into the same sphere of influence, thus opening the DRC mineral resources to Anglo American interests.
American and Canadian companies signed mining concessions with Kabila before Kinshasa had felled to the Rwandan forces carrying the AFDL (Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo) shoulder high to Kinshasa. Kigali has become the gateway to the vast mineral resources of Eastern DRC.
Since coming to power in 2007, President Sarkozy, under the strong influence of his Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner who is said to be a long term friend of General Paul Kagame, has been trying to do everything in his power to renew diplomatic relations with Rwanda in order to get at least some crumbs of minerals from the rich man’s table i.e. US, UK firms.
Aware that General Kagame is the gatekeeper to DRC minerals and eying the gas project in Lake Kivu jointly owned by Rwanda and the DRC, the French government decided to sweep under the carpet the killing of its citizens by the RPF soldiers in 1994 and even to grant bail to President Kagame’s Chief of Protocol Major Rose Kabuye who is alleged to be part of the plot to eliminate them. Major Rose Kabuye is accused with other RPF officers for being involved in the shooting down of the plane that was carrying late President Habyarimana of Rwanda, an act that is considered by the UN to have triggered genocide. Ms. Rose Kabuye is back to Rwanda and is said to have been at the Airport to welcome the French Foreign Minister on his mission to prepare his President’s visit.
Alleged barter trade arrangements
The warming in relations between Rwanda and France were marked by the visit of the French President to Rwanda on the 25th of February 2010. The visit lasted 3 hours. It is reported that Sarkozy was accompanied by a good number businessmen.
In an interview, President Sarkozy and General Kagame, without providing specifics, said they had agreed on extensive cooperation in trade, investment, education, health and cultural exchanges.
It is alleged that behind the scenes were some arrangement of a “barter trade” where France would arrest and hand over to Rwanda a list of people accused by Kigali of having masterminded the 1994 genocide in return for commercial favours for the French business community. It was alleged that on top of the shopping list was the widow of late President Habyarimana. Whereas it was not possible to hand over the suspects, they would be disabled in their alleged activities against Rwanda, by arresting them and trying them in France.
This speculation was given weight by the arrest, soon after the visit, of the widow of late President Habyarimana though given bail thereafter.
Sarkozy woe: hope for traumatized Rwandans living in France?
With the UN report on what happened to Hutu refugees in the DRC and hoping that the shelved reports on various crimes committed by the RPF in Rwanda i.e. Gersony report, one would hope that the French government would think twice before going ahead with endearing itself to a government alleged to have committed acts of genocide.
“Gersony Report” is the name that has been given to unpublished 1994 findings made by a team commissioned by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees under Robert Gersony to investigate alleged violation of human rights in Rwanda under the RPF. Part of the findings are said to mention that from April and August 1994, the RPF had killed “between 25,000 and 45,000 persons; that RPF killed between 5,000 and 10,000 persons each month from April through July and 5,000 for the month of August. It is alleged that the findings were suppressed by the United Nations and the RPF government for political reasons. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gersony_Report)
With UN report in hand, President Sarkozy will have an interest in proving himself better than his predecessors whom he accused of “errors of judgment” to support the Rwandan government when it was violating human rights and during genocide. He had added in the interview that there was “a sort of blindness” on the part of the French government which prevented it from seeing “the genocidal aspect of the government of the President who was assassinated”. He is reported to have said: “What happened here is unacceptable, but what happened here compels the international community, including France, to reflect on the mistakes that stopped it from preventing and halting this abominable crime. If President Sarkozy is sincere it is hoped that in order to prevent any other violence of the same magnitude happening his government should work with other governments in order to ensure that the UN report is acted upon so that perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide in the DRC face the law.
Let us hope that if ever there was a secret “barter trade” deal between President of France and General Kagame to exchange Rwandans on the shopping list of General Paul Kagame in return for commercial deals, the implementation would be stopped because that would be handing over “suspected genocidaires” to other “suspected genocidaires”. I also hope that given the nature of the regime in Rwanda there is no more risk to Rwandan ‘immigrés’ who have acquired the French nationality to be stripped of their French nationality under the proposed law on nationality using the evidence produced by a government which is accused of being involved in committing war crimes, crimes against humanity and possible crimes of genocide.