Friday, November 24, 2006

Thousands of Rwandans Stage Anti-France Demonstrations Over Arrest Warrants

Anti-France protests rock Kigali

By James Munyaneza
Thursday, 23 November 2006
Rwanda News

Business in Kigali city paralysed yesterday when thousands of infuriated Rwandans singing anti-France slogans and praising President Paul Kagame, staged a peaceful demonstration. The impromptu demo was a public reaction to Monday’s call by a French magistrate, Jean Louis Bruguierre, for the arrest and trial of Kagame and nine Rwandan top military officers, accusing them of downing the plane that was carrying former Rwandan president, Juvenal Habyarimana.

An estimated 15,000 demonstrators from all corners of the city took to the streets, many carrying placards and banners that described Kagame as a hero, and others condemning the French government over its alleged role in the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.

The demonstration started from Kimihurura roundabout at 3:00 pm and ended at Amahoro National Stadium, where speeches castigating the French government were made amidst patriotic chants and jeering whenever France was mentioned.

Some of the placards read: “France = Arrogance, ‘Stop France and its politicians from our Lovely Country;’ France, Let us mind our business and not you; Les Francais = Interahamwe (French is equivalent to Interahamwe).”

Genocide witnesses at the stadium said the French trained and worked with Interahamwe to plan and execute the killings, which claimed at least one million ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutu.

“In 1992, French troops pitched camp near our home in Shyorongi (on the outskirts of Kigali) and they always mocked Tutsis until April 1994 when they worked with Interahamwe to kill them (Tutsis). I saw it myself,” Epiphany Mukasekuru, who nearly broke down, said in a brief testimony.

The president of Ibuka, an umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors, Francois Xavier Ngarambe, described Bruguierre’s allegations as scandalous and said that Paris should instead try itself together with the ringleaders of the Genocide who stay in France.

“Have you ever heard of a serial killer calling for the prosecution of a policeman? They should first try Agathe Kanziga (Habyarimana’s wife), who chaired many meetings that planned the Genocide; Father Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, who raped women and owned a gun while he was a priest here,” said a furious Ngarambe.

Kanziga and Munyeshyaka, who a week ago was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Military Tribunal over Genocide crimes, live in France.

In particular, Ngarambe blamed French troops for the butcher of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis in the areas that fell within a French-manned buffer zone called Zone Turquoise at the height of the Genocide. The zone, which stretched from Cyangugu in the Southwest to Gisenyi in the northwest of the country, is said to have provided safe passage to Genocidal forces which fled to the DR Congo as they lost power to then RPA forces.

Kigali City Mayor, Dr.Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, accused the French of attempting to shift the guilt of their involvement in the 100-day slaughter to Rwandan heroes that stopped the French
‘barbaric actions.’ “We are here to remember barbaric actions of the French. Their hands are stained with the blood of innocent Rwandans and continue to be arrogant. However they will not accomplish their ill-intentions,” said the mayor.

The protesters sang patriotic songs with words that affirm their dedication to unity of Rwandans.

“They should leave our defendant alone. Paul Kagame restored humanity, he is our all-time hero,” another witness, one Mukamusana, said. She accused the French military of killing Tutsi families in the former Ruhengeri province, now in the Northern Province.

Bruguierre has already issued warrants for the arrest of Chief of General Staff (CGS), General James Kabarebe, Chief of Staff (Land Forces), Lieutenant General Charles Kayonga and Rwanda’s Ambassador to India, Lieutenant General Kayumba Nyamwasa.

Others indicted include Joint Five (J5) head, Brigadier General Jack Nziza, Chief of State Protocol, Lieutenant Colonel (rtd) Rose Kabuye, MP Colonel (retired) Sam Kanyemera alias Kaka and Major Jacob Tumwine.

President Kagame on Wednesday lambasted the French government and Bruguierre, calling the accusations rubbish.

France can’t try us, says Kagame

Thursday, 23 November 2006

President Paul Kagame has made it clear that France has no moral authority to try the Kigali leadership over genocide related crimes.

Kagame was on Wednesday, addressing a forum of over 300 guests attending the Sixth Annual Development Partners Meeting (DPM) at Intercontinental Hotel. He said that the call for the trial was insulting and engineered by bullies of the genocide guilty France.

“That is rubbish, trying a President and some government officials, is bullying and we cannot accept this insult,” Kagame told the guests.

The President further said that France had a direct involvement in the 1994 Genocide and should instead focus on its role in the massacre of about one million Rwandans.

“France cannot try anyone. Try who and over what? They should first try themselves because they killed our people,” said the visibly bitter Kagame. The President’s remarks come days after French magistrate, Jean-Louis BruguiĆ©re filed a document at the Paris Prosecutor’s Office, claiming that some officers of the Rwanda Patriotic Front/Army were responsible for the shooting down of former president Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane, which culminated in the Genocide.

Meanwhile, while addressing delegates at the DPM, the President also took a swipe at human rights watchdogs for misleading the world that the government was oppressing the opposition. “This country was completely destroyed twelve years ago; where were our development partners who now come out to give us lessons on how to govern ourselves?” Kagame wondered, adding that Rwanda is a country of people with integrity, culture and values that must be respected.

He added: “We don’t do things simply to please you (donors) in order to get your money. No. If you want to give us your money, you are welcome but if it comes with conditions then we won’t have it.”

Rwanda has set an agenda in this round to draw attention to the huge resource gap that exists in implementing a new development programme. Initial estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggest that this gap could average $1 billion a year between 2009 and 2020.

Last year, Rwanda received $500 million in donor aid.

1 comment:

Pan-African News Wire said...

Rwanda cuts ties with France

Kagame denies involvement in the death of Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana in an air crash

Rwanda has cut diplomatic ties with France and given France's ambassador to Rwanda 24 hours to leave the country.

Earlier, Rwanda recalled its ambassador from Paris after a French judge requested that Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, stand trial over the killing of a former leader which sparked a 1994 genocide.

Charles Murigande, the foreign minister, said: "We have ordered the French ambassador to leave our country within 24 hours and given other French diplomats 72 hours to leave." On Thursday, Rwandans held protests against Jean-Louis Bruguiere's move to put Kagame on trial for a 1994 plane crash.

Juvenal Habyarimana, Rwanda's then president, was killed when his plane was shot down in 1994.

Rwanda has rejected the French investigating magistrate's statement that Kagame should face prosecution over his "suspected involvement" in Habyarimana's death.

The accusations have infuriated the Kagame government, which has called them a cover-up for France's alleged role in training soldiers who carried out the genocide, now being investigated in Rwanda.

"Given the level of enmity as expressed by the latest move, we are beginning to question the need of maintaining diplomatic relations with such a country that is aggressive to us," Murigande said.

Suspected involvement

Kagame has immunity from prosecution as an acting head of state, but France hopes to ask the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), based in Tanzania, to pursue the case.

Formed in 1994, the ICTR is currently hearing the cases of several former high-ranking Rwandan army officers accused of genocide. The court has so far tried 31 suspects, convicting 26 and acquitting five.

Alongside the Rwandan president, James Kabarebe, the chief of Rwanda's armed forces, and Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Kayonga are among the nine aides under suspicion.

Habyarimana's plane was shot down over Kigali, the Rwandan capital, on April 6, 1994. Cyprien Ntaryamira, the Burundian president, and a four-man French crew also died in the crash.

The then-president's death provoked genocide in the country.

Between 800,000 and one million people, mostly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, were killed by mainly Hutu militia groups.

Kagame led the Tutsi forces that took power in July 1994, ending the fighting. He denies involvement in the attack on the aircraft carrying Habyarimana.

France accused

Rwanda has accused France of supporting and training Hutu fighters in the knowledge that they would carry out the genocide.

Murigande, the Rwandan minister, said: "The French are trying to appease their conscience for their role in the genocide and are now trying to find someone else to hold responsible for their acts here."

France denies the claim and a French parliamentary investigation in 1998 cleared France of responsibility for the genocide.

France maintained close links with Rwanda, a former-Belgian colony, between 1975 to 1994, giving the government financial and military support and sending troops to Rwanda at the height of the genocide under a UN-authorised operation.

Bruguiere has been investigating the Habyarimana crash since 1998, when a complaint was filed by the families of the French crew flying the plane and Habyarimana's widow Agathe.