Rwandans denounce France

Led by genocide survivors and community leaders, thousands paraded through the streets of Kigali to Rwanda’s Amahoro National Stadium, which filled to more than its 25,000-capacity, news agency AFP reported.

Carrying signs reading “France = genocidaire,” “France get out of Rwanda,” “The hell with French imperialism,” and “Stop shielding killers,” the marchers converged on the stadium.

“They killed our people,” said survivor Mukamu Sana, repeating allegations that French troops in Rwanda before and during the genocide had trained and helped the radical Interahamwe militia blamed for most of the 800,000 deaths.

“I was afraid of the French as much as I was afraid of the Interahawe,” she told the crowd at the stadium.

Francois Ngarambe, the president of IBUKA, Rwanda’s largest association of genocide survivors, echoed her comments and accused France of sheltering genocide suspects whom it has refused to extradite for trial in Rwanda.

“After the genocide, they hosted the masterminds in their country,” he shouted. “France, France, France. If they want justice, why don’t they start with such people.”

“We denounce them, we denounce them, we denounce them!” chanted others, some of whom carried posters with the crossed-out picture of French anti-terrorism Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere who this week called for Kagame’s prosecution.

In Paris, a judicial source said Judge Bruguiere had signed international arrest warrants for nine Kagame aides as part of a probe into the death of the country’s former leader that touched off the genocide.

The warrants, signed on Wednesday, say the nine are wanted for “murder” and “accessory to murder” in the downing of the plane of then-Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana for which Mr Bruguiere has said Kagame should be tried.

The huge demonstration in Rwanda, a rare government-authorised protest, was held amid rising tensions between Kigali and Paris over the genocide, including charges of French complicity, harbouring suspects and Mr Bruguiere’s inquiry.

Already strained relations were exacerbated last month when a government-appointed panel began holding public hearings on France’s alleged role in the genocide, in which some 800,000 people were slaughtered.

Relations deteriorated further on Monday when Judge Bruguiere suggested Kagame ought to be tried for “suspected involvement” in the April 6, 1994, shooting down of a plane carrying Mr Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira, both Hutus.

Kagame dismissed the call as “rubbish,” and instead said a trial should be opened against France, which he accuses of abetting the 100-day genocide in which minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus were targetted by Hutu extremists.

“That some judge in France whose name I cannot even pronounce has something to say about Rwanda — trying a president and some government officials — that’s rubbish,” he told diplomats on Wednesday.

“That is justice of bullies, arrogance,” Kagame said. “France cannot try anyone — try who, over what? They should first try themselves because they killed our people.”

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

Paris has adamantly denies any role in the genocide but Kigali’s commission if compiling evidence to determine if there is enough to file suit against France for damages at the world court.

The commission is set to resume public hearings between December 11 and 19.