Rwanda: Rwandans, Rusesabagina protest Kagame visit to Paris

Kagame’s first official visit to France since the 1994 genocide is met with protest by the Rwandan diaspora, including prominent peace activist Paul Rusesabagina. The protesters want France to avoid legitimizing the Rwandan regime and for Kagame to be held accountable for crimes he has allegedly committed. Kagame’s visit to Paris comes after more than a decade of cool relations between the two countries.

According to a press release by Paul Rusesabagina’s organization, the Hotel Rwanda Rusesabagina Foundation (HRRF), the protesters will be lobbying the international community for support in ending the  conflicts in Africa’s Great Lakes region, improving governance in  Rwanda, and holding Kagame accountable for his alleged crimes and  suppression of human rights.

The protesters accuse Kagame of playing a leading role in the conflict in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). There has  been near constant fighting in the DRC since 1998, causing an  estimated seven million deaths. Among the combatants are openly anti-Rwanda rebel groups, formed by the perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, as well as pro-Rwanda militias that the protesters claim are proxies of Kigali.

Aside from the conflict in the DRC, Kagame has come under international scrutiny for domestic politics. He is accused of tightly controlling media, rigging elections and breaching human rights laws.  A current example is the trial against Ingabire, who was arrested prior to the 2010 presidential elections in Rwanda in which she would have challenged the incumbent Kagame. The timing of her arrest and the vagueness of the charges “strongly suggest a political motivation,”  wrote Amnesty International.

Prior to Monday’s protests Rusesabagina spoke out to discourage French  cooperation with Kagame that could potentially legitimize his regime,  saying that “any support shown for Kagame reflects poorly on both the  government of France and on French businesses.”

Relations between the two nations have been cool since the genocide.  The post-genocide government has accused French politicians and  soldiers of supporting the genocidaires and in some cases even taking  part in the massacres. Paris has vehemently denied these charges. Many observers view Kagame’s visit as a sign of warming relations. For  those who see Kagame as a criminal, this is unacceptable.

Author: Tim Davis

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