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Nicolas Sarkozy’s Rwanda accord rebuffed

AN attempt by French President Nicolas Sarkozy to end the row over France’s murky role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide has run into controversy as senior politicians in Paris snubbed the leader of the African nation.

Paul Kagame

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he had “no wish to shake” Kagame’s hand.

Mr Sarkozy had invited President Paul Kagame to the French capital for what was billed as a reconciliation designed to bolster France’s waning position in Africa and to give Rwanda a gateway to Europe.

Instead, the visit yesterday served to highlight diplomatic strains arising from accusations of French involvement in the massacre of 800,000 Rwandans 17 years ago.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, who occupied the same post at the time of the genocide, travelled to the Pacific Rim, having said that he had “no wish to shake” Kagame’s hand.

The chairman of the French Senate, Gerard Larcher, also refused to meet Mr Kagame, who is accused of staining French honour by claiming that France gave at least indirect support to the perpetrators of the genocide.

Jean-Claude Lafourcade, a retired general who commanded the French army operation in Rwanda, said the government in Kigali had, in effect, described his soldiers as “behaving like Nazis”.

The row centres on Rwandan claims that France armed the Hutu regime that carried out the mass murder of members of the Tutsi ethnic group.

Rwanda says French troops could have intervened to stop the killings, but did so only when Tutsis began to get the upper hand, and that the upshot of the French operation was to let the murderers get away.

The accusations were refuted in an official French report, although Mr Sarkozy conceded last year that France had shown a “kind of blindness” during the conflict.

Despite the row, the French presidency hailed Mr Kagame’s visit as a “new stage in the process of normalising relations between the two countries”.

After lunch at his Elysee Palace, Mr Sarkozy announced an increase in French aid to Rwanda from E23.7 million $31.2m) to E42.2m a year, along with private and public sector investment in banking and energy exploration.

Mr Sarkozy is seeking to rebuild bridges with a region where French influence has declined sharply over the past two decades.

He hoped that Mr Kagame would turn to Paris as he came under fire over human rights abuses in London and Washington. The Rwandan leader seemed keen to grab the outstretched hand, saying: “Really, the whole purpose is to find ways of overcoming our differences.”

[The Australian]


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