Posted by: sean | November 12, 2008

France – Rwanda conflict could affect Congo

Tensions between Paris and Kigali have been pretty tense. Relations were never rosy between the prodominately Tutsi regime in Rwanda and the European power that backed the genocidal Hutu Power regime that was ousted from power when now-president Kagame and his Ugandan-backed rebels stopped the genocide and took over the country in 1994.

But things got even worse back in 2006, when the French judge Bruguière called for Kagame to stand trial for the assassination of his predecessor, whose plane was shot down in April 1994, sparking the genocide. Kagame responded to the charges by cutting relations with Paris and closing all of the French cultural centers and schools in Rwanda.

Then, while I was in Kigali this summer, the Rwandan government released an official report (pdf in French) accusing France of responsability in the genocide. The report accused France of training government and militia forces responsible for the genocide and even of participating in some of the massacres. It also named names: to wit, former President, François Mitterand, former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur and former foreign minister Alain Juppé, as well as his chief aide, Dominique de Villepin. (Full disclosure: a good friend of mine who was my former research director was on the commission.)

This summer, it seemed hard to imagine how relations could sour any more between Paris and Kigali, but they have:

Rose Kabuye, Mr. Kagame’s chief of protocol, was arrested Sunday at Frankfurt International Airport on a warrant from France, where she is wanted in connection with the fatal April 1994 attack on the plane of President Juvenal Habyarimana.

… Rwanda responded by expelling the German ambassador in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, on Tuesday. The German Foreign Ministry said Germany had in return asked the Rwandan ambassador to leave Berlin.

Unfortunately, this may affect more than just relations between Rwanda and France and Germany. Kagame was quoted as calling the arrest politically motivated and said it could “affect Rwanda’s cooperation with the European Union in regard to the fighting in Congo.”

The fighting that Kagame is referring to, if the flare up of fighting around Goma, which is in Eastern Congo right on the Rwandan border. The Congolese Tutsi militia that’s been battling Congolese government forces and local Maï-Maï militias is commanded by Laurent Nkunda, who left the Congolese military in 2004, reportedly to battle Rwandan Hutu militias operating in Eastern Congo known for raiding Rwanda and targeting Tutsi, be they in Rwanda or the DRC. Nkunda later expanded his goal to include toppling the regime in Kinshasa. The general sees himself as the only one who is willing to protect Congolese Tutsi (or Banyamulenge), but others see him as but a local proxy for Kigali, Rwanda’s man Kivu as it were. In either case, Kagame has very good relations with and much influence over Nkunda, so any refusal by Rwanda to cooperate in calming the violence in Eastern Congo, could make peace in Kivu a dead letter.

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