Rwanda steps up diplomatic fight with France

24th November 2006, Comments 0 comments

KIGALI, Nov 24, 2006 (AFP) - Rwanda on Friday recalled its ambassador to France and said it might break diplomatic relations with Paris in a row over arrest warrants related to the 1994 genocide issued by a French judge.

KIGALI, Nov 24, 2006 (AFP) - Rwanda on Friday recalled its ambassador to France and said it might break diplomatic relations with Paris in a row over arrest warrants related to the 1994 genocide issued by a French judge.

A day after some 25,000 people rallied in Kigali to denounce France, alleged French complicity in the genocide and the judge, Rwanda's foreign minister announced the move, accusing Paris of trying to destroy the government.

"We have recalled our ambassador to Paris, we don't see why he should be there at this point," Foreign Minister Charles Murigande said, adding Kigali might not send the envoy, Emmanuel Ndacijimana, back and cut ties with France.

"We want some consultations with him and we'll see what happens later," he told AFP. "France is intent on destroying our government, we do not see any need for keeping any relationship with a hostile country."

Murigande added that the French ambassador to Rwanda had been summoned on Thursday to demand an explanation of the actions of French Judge Jean-Louis Bruguière who called Monday for the prosecution of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Bruguière has also issued international arrest warrants for nine top Kagame associates that say they are wanted for "murder" and "accessory to murder" in the April 6, 1994 downing of ex-Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana's plane.

The death of Habyarimana, killed in the crash with Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, set off the 100-day genocide in which Hutu extremists slaughtered some 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Kagame, who headed the Tutsi rebel force that took power in Kigali in July 1994, halting the genocide, has always denied any involvement in the attack on the aircraft carrying the Hutu heads of state of Rwanda and Burundi.

He angrily dismissed Bruguière's call for his prosecution as "rubbish" and said France should stand trial itself for complicity in the genocide by training and supporting the Hutu militia blamed for most of the killings.

"That is justice of bullies, arrogance," Kagame told diplomats in Kigali on Wednesday. "France cannot try anyone — try who, over what? They should first try themselves because they killed our people."

Murigande said Friday that Bruguière's report into the plane shoot-down was "hollow" and a politically motivated attempt by France's top anti-terrorism judge to smear Kagame and his government.

"We have reviewed Bruguière's report," he said. "It is so hollow that we are surprised that any institution like the court in Paris would authorize indictments on the basis of such a report.

"That confirms our fears that this is political," Murigande said.

His comments followed the rare government-authorized rally on Thursday at which protesters packed Rwanda's Amahoro National Stadium in Kigali to rail against France and Bruguière.

"They killed our people," said survivor Mukamu Sana, repeating allegations that French troops in Rwanda before and during 1994 had trained and helped the radical Hutu Interahamwe militia.

"I was afraid of the French as much as I was afraid of the Interahawe," she told the surging crowd at the stadium, who chanted "We denounce them, we denounce them, we denounce them!"

Paris adamantly denies the charges but Kigali has appointed a commission to determine if there is evidence to file suit against France for damages at the world court.

The panel began open hearings, set to resume on December 11, last month, further straining already tense relations between Rwanda and France, which has long been actively involved in the former Belgian colony.

At the commission's initial public session, witnesses testified that France wanted to support Habyarimana's pro-French, francophone government from attack by Kagame's Ugandan-based, anglophone Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels to preserve its influence in Africa.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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