Rwanda clears the country of all things French

27th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

KIGALI, Nov 27, 2006 (AFP) - Thousands of Rwandans staged anti-French protests here Monday while officials moved to clear the vestiges of French interests in the country after breaking all ties with Paris in a diplomatic row stemming from the central African nation's 1994 genocide.

KIGALI, Nov 27, 2006 (AFP) - Thousands of Rwandans staged anti-French protests here Monday while officials moved to clear the vestiges of French interests in the country after breaking all ties with Paris in a diplomatic row stemming from the central African nation's 1994 genocide.

As a 72-hour deadline for the French embassy, cultural center and school to shut down neared, authorities ordered Radio France International to halt local FM broadcasts and 3,000 people rallied against France at the embassy.

"We denounce the arrogance of France," "Don't take us back," "France = killers," "Indict the French," read some of the placards carried by the protesters who marched from the embassy to the cultural center.

"France should not derail our achievements," said Callixte Tubanambazi, a 24-year-old university student, as police pushed back the angry crowd that tried unsuccessfully to force its way into the embassy compound.

"Over the last 12 years, Kagame and his government have done more for Rwanda than the French did during the decades they spent here," he told AFP.

Infuriated by last week's calls by French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière for President Paul Kagame to be tried for alleged complicity in the death of former president Juvenal Habyarimana, Kigali on Friday cut all ties with Paris.

French state institutions and their employees have until late Monday to close down and leave the country and as they packed the information ministry said it had orderd Radio France International to stop broadcasting.

"The radio has been taken off air in line with the cabinet decision stopping all activities of state institutions of France," information minister Laurent Nkusi told AFP.

The move leaves the BBC, Voice of America and Germany's Deutsche Welle as the only international radio stations broadcasting to Rwanda on FM.

Despite the excited crowd demonstrating at the embassy, some Rwandans expressed concern at the wholesale nature of the closures, particularly at the French international school, the Ecole Antoine de Saint-Exupery, in Kigali.

"Parents are asked to keep their children at home awaiting new directives," the school's administration said in a terse notice posted at its gates.

Some parents and students gathered at the school gates, where the signboard bearing the school's name had been smudged with fresh paint, pondering the next move after the abrupt turn of events.

"I'm quite disappointed. The cabinet shouldn't have closed a school," said Faustin Niwemugabo, a parent whose three children study there.

"I think we Rwandans will lose more since our children account for the majority of the students in this school," he said. "A school is a school. You can close an embassy and such political institutions but not a school."

"I can't believe this has happened. I had to come here and see for myself, said another parent Angelique Mulisa.

Relations between Rwanda and France soured in the recent months over recriminations in the 1994 mass slaughter that claimed an estimated 800,000 lives within a space of 100 days.

Rwanda accuses French troops deployed at the height of the genocide of training nd arming Hutu Interahamwe militia blamed for the mass murder, and has established an inquiry panel to probe those claims.

But Bruguière alleges that Kagame, then a Tutsi rebel leader, had a hand in the April 6, 1994, downing of Habyarimana's plane over Kigali, an act said to have sparked the genocide.

"We had warned Paris several times that this (Bruguiere) report would be negatively received here and that the Rwanda government would break diplomatic relations," said a French diplomat finalising his departure from Rwanda.

Both sides have strongly denied involvement in the genocide and Kigali established a panel to probe France's alleged roles in the bloodbath.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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