Not too long, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France paid a visit to Kigali in an attempt to defrost relations between the two countries. A very welcome and meaningful gesture indeed. After all, France’s involvement in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi is well documented and cannot be denied.
Now, President Kagame has been invited to France. Well and good, and he has graciously accepted the invitation. In the realm of politics and diplomacy, this is how it is done.
But, Mr. President remain vigilant and aware of the legandary French arrogance and duplicity.
When Rwanda broke off diplomatic relations with France because of their involvement in the genocide, many were shocked at President Kagame’s decisiveness, but many of us applauded him for this action. The coup de grace was when Rwanda joined the British Commonwealth.
See, France was used to Kigali regimes that it could push around at will. Breaking off diplomatic relations sent a clear message to Paris that there was a new order in Kigali. As President Kagame is fond of saying, Rwanda may be a small country, but we are not simple minded people, and we are not going to roll over and play dead. As it were, France now heard it loud and clear : they were no longer, so to speak, Rwanda’s primary care physician, as they had been under Habyarimana’s genocidal regime.
The President’s visit is good for both countries. Rwanda can gain from technical and financial support from France. But France also has a chance to atone for her involvement in the genocide against the Tutsi. And they can begin this by taking concrete steps to reign in all the genocidaires roaming the streets of Paris. Otherwise, talk is cheap.
Paris is abuzz with French soldiers who fought in Rwanda in 1994 incensed about the President’s visit. And they have the nerve to be heard ? Their actions in OPERATION TURQUOISE were criminal and actionable. They are as guilty as the INTERAHAMWE they were protecting as they exited the country with their tails between their legs.
But on a more positive note, Rwandans of goodwill in France and neighboring countries are ready and anxious to welcome President Kagame. The spirit of Chicago lives on.