French Senator Joëlle Gariaud-Maylam
New-Orleans, January 2006
First Day of Back-to-School after Katrina
***Post from the blog of Sen. Joëlle Gariaud-Maylam, published on August 24, 2011
Original Title: “Visite du Président du Rwanda, Paul Kagamé à Paris”
Translated from the French by Alex Engwete
Paul Kagame, Rwanda’s president, will visit Paris on September 12 and 13. This announcement could by no means leave me indifferent, and today I resolved to submit a written question on this matter.
The Rwandan president has accused French troops sent to Rwanda, on a UN mandate, to be complicit of the genocide that had befallen that country and thus to have contributed in crimes against humanity.
No one could deny in good faith the reality of genocide. The Rwandan people still bear its scars. But genocide shouldn’t serve to feed unjust accusations or to justify unacceptable policies. We had by all means made mistakes like everyone else. We didn’t see the looming catastrophe. We didn’t take quite seriously the calls to murder of Radio Mille Collines. And yet. French troops did everything to reestablish peace and security, at the peril of their lives, in a country blighted by chaos and sanguinary madness. They did save thousands of men, women, and children by heading off exactions and crimes regardless of whoever the perpetrators happened to be. Our political leaders at that time had acted in good faith, with the preservation of whoever could be preserved as their priority. Barring our action, the tragedy could have been even worse.
The visit of president Kagame will take place. One can hardly be happy about it. It happens to be my case. I certainly understand that the interests of France and Rwanda pass by an appeasement of their relations. But it is at least important that on the occasion of this visit, the Rwandan head of state publicly evinces that he will no longer unjustly impugn France, her army, and her leaders. Let’s not forget that our military devote their lives to defend democracy and human rights, with no other payoff than the honor of contributing, under our flag, to peace and development. France has backed the Libyan people in their quest for liberty against the tyrant Gaddafi; President Sarkozy is winning his bet, after having defended, alone against (almost) everyone else, his vision of a free Libya. We can be quite proud of our action.
The visit should be an occasion to lay stuff in the open in all frankness. About the past and about the present. About the action of Rwandan troops in the DRC. About the repression meted out against Rwandan oppositionists: I notably have in mind Victoire Ingabire, jailed for over a year. The reality of the genocide shouldn’t serve as an excuse for denial of democracy and human rights.
If we speak to the Rwandan president a language of truth, if he understands that France is willing to acknowledge her mistakes but not to relinquish the honor of her army nor to shove Human Rights in her pocket, then, yes, this visit that gives rise to legitimate questions would have maybe been useful.