Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Return to Rwanda

Hat tip to reader BM, who links to the tremendous blog, The Last of the Famous International Playboys. The first of a two part post considers whether the genocide was masterminded by France or by current Rwandan President Paul Kagame. The case against Kagame was made by French magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere.

Recent developments began on March 9 when Le Monde published excerpts of the final 220-page report by the crusading anti-terror investigating magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguière following his six-year investigation in the airplane crash of Habyarimana's plane at the request of French nationals also killed in the crash. A firestorm of recrimination and scandal has followed the publication of this article.

Bruguière's report names former rebel leader and current Rwandan president Paul Kagamé is the main organizer of the attack and puts him at the top of a list of high-ranking rebel accomplices, members of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPR).

Bruguière's investigation collected hundreds of accounts, filed dozens of letters rogatory, required numerous missions abroad in collaboration with other investigators and included testimony from anonymous FPR dissidents under witness protection, of which one was a member of the "network commando," a clandestine group allegedly under Kagamé's direct control and allegedly responsible for carrying out the assassination.

Kagame pointed the finger the other way, fingering France as the mastermind of the terror.

Kagamé tried to turn the situation on its head, telling Radio France Internationale that

"the French were there at the moment the genocide occurred. They trained the killers. They were stationed at command positions within the armed forces that carried out the genocide. They also directly participated in the operations: they filtered the road blocks, identifying people on an ethnic basis, punishing the Tutsis and favoring the Hutus.

All this was done in broad daylight at the road blocks. We've got it all on video, numerous pieces of evidence of the participation of the French. Not the French people but certain elements acting on orders from the government and who were manning these roadblocks during the genocide. They knew. They supported it. They supplied arms and they gave orders and instructions to the killers. What more can I say?"

France immediately denied the charges but in 1998, the Assemblée Nationale began a fact finding mission into the participation of French authorities in the genocide. It declassified 3,500 documents and heard from foreign policy officials from that time. CNRS sociologist Claudine Vidal said that the inquiry "arrived at a very severe judgment on French involvement in Rwanda, the goal of which was to prevent at all costs the military victory of the FPR. According to the report, 'at all costs' meant an 'underestimation of the authoritarian, sectarian and racist nature of the Rwandan regime.' It meant arming and organizing an army that 'some French military personnel may have felt they formed'. It meant a French military presence 'verging on military engagement on the ground.' Finally, it meant continuing to confer legitimacy on an interim government [put in place after the assassination of Habyarimana] while ignoring the reality of the genocide. Nevertheless, no direct participation by French soldiers in the genocide has been established by the mission."

Yet former Socialist defense minster Paul Quilès, the chair of the panel conducting the inquiry, said that the "military aide for the government forces verged on direct engagement: operational consultation at all significant levels of command, from the Chief of Staff to sector command posts, training of long range commandos, participation in check points at a time when Kigali was threatened by FPR troops."

Hovering over this entire mess, like a dark Sphinx, was the United Nations, which comes across as an organization dedicated to cover-ups, but for reasons that are never made clear.

"sources close to the French investigation" said on March 12 that they were "stunned to say the least" by the Secretary General's statements about "effective cooperation." They added, "a considerable number of the witnesses in this case returned to us after having bumped up against blunt refusals at the UN" both at headquarters and at the ICTR in Arusha. "Moreover, the transfer of several documents, such as the 'memorandum' drawn up by the former UN investigator in Kigali, Michael Hourigan, was denied us at the instructions of the New York Office."

The story continues in the second part, too funny and grotesque for tears. It weaves around the story of the data flight recorder, which may or may not have been in incumbent Rwandan President's aircraft on the day it was shot down or sabotaged; an aircraft provided by France, maintained by Air France. The recorder itself found its way to an obscure United Nations filing cabinet -- if indeed it was ever in the aircraft -- without ever being officially examined.

One commenter, Tim, asked, "So...has the black box been analyzed? If so, what did it reveal and if not, why not?" ... When the presence of the "black box" at UN headquarters was revealed, Annan said, "From what I have picked up, it sounds like a real foul up, a first class foul up," and denied that there had been a coverup. But his predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali told Libération on March 19 that There is something truly mysterious and synchronized in this whole matter: the black box goes missing, the ICTR stops its investigation... the UN system has been deeply inflitrated. A network has formed to burry this subject. Boutros-Ghali added that, "If I'm still alive 20 years from now, I'll say a lot of things."

It will be worth the wait. Boutros-Ghali darkly hints that the UN was heavily infiltrated by American agents, but to what end he does not make clear. What is definite is that the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan massacre was observed recently, with one of the principal suspects of the outrage, Paul Kagame, presiding over a memorial ceremony which included hymn singing, ceremonial reburials and copious tears. Yet culpability for planning the massacre of  800,000 people, nearly five times the number killed in both Atomic Bombings, remains undetermined. It was carried off with cold calculation, relieved only by ironies which create the air of a monstrous joke.

The genocide was anything but a spontaneous explosion of violence, as many have long assumed, but rather an operation orchestrated by Hutu extremists from Rwanda's north attempting to maintain their hold on power. Melvern uses this and other documents to demonstrate the meticulous premeditation of the killing, revealing, for instance, Kambanda's testimony on cabinet-level discussions about the genocide. She also reveals that the Rwandan government imported $750,000 worth of Chinese machetes (enough to arm one in every three Rwanda men). Mulvern also discusses arms imports from France and Egypt shortly before the genocide and offers an "insider's account of the roadblocks where so many Tutsi lost their lives." Many of the road blocks were manned by French troops.

However, these revelations merely confirm what has long been known: the UN received a telegram on January 11, 1994 from its local force commander Roméo Dallaire who has since published a book on "the failure of Humanity in Rwanda." Dallaire sought protection for the wife and family of an informant, as well as the informant himself, who told Dallaire of Hutu plans for the Tutsi genocide and of the location of interahamwe arms caches. The informant revealed that all Tutsi in Kigali had been registered by the government and that Interahamwe personnel could kill 1,000 in as little as twenty minutes. Kofi Annan replied the same day telling Dallaire to inform president Habyarimana of the informant's statements — though the president's men were the ones they implicated.

Last february and March, filmmaker Georges Kapler filmed interviews with three Interahamwe militiamen which he presented in Paris. The three men say they were "trained and assisted" by France and one of them, Jean-Bosco Halimana, says that "the French gave us a license to kill. They came to support the genocide in a clear and visible manner."

In the end we are left with a list of suspects without a definite culprit. Kagame had the motive but not the means. A rebel leader at the time, he didn't have the juice to pull strings at the highest levels of the UN or at the Security Council. France had the means, but not the obvious motive. What could be possibly be worth enough in a place like Rwanda to make killing nearly a million people worthwhile? Most mysterious of all is the role of the United Nations. One gets the sense that they were in on the plot early on, but what was the plot? Read the whole thing.