The New Times (Kigali)

Rwanda: Why This Bad Blood Between Rwanda and the West?

opinion

IN an e-mail, someone asked me a simple question: "Why this bad blood between Rwanda and the West? You must be doing something vicious that the whole of the West should be ganged against you."

The answer, though, is not so simple. Personally, I can't find anything bad that Rwanda has done except try to mind her business.

In fact, the only time that some Rwandans were bad, when they were dividing their compatriots, is the only time that Western countries have ever been good to them.

When Rwandans were minding their own business at the close of the 1800s, as they'd done for millennia, the West came visiting and that was the last of their business that they minded. At the close of the 1950s, after some Rwandans had swallowed whole lessons from the West, they tore up their society and the West showered the country with gifts. That's when Western countries competed over Rwanda's love until France beat them at it in the 1970s.

However, the dispossessed Rwandans belonged only to Rwanda and could not just vanish. To where, anyway? That's how the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) came into being. And that's how its military wing, RPA, launched an attack on October 1, 1990 to reclaim the rights of all dispossessed and marginalised compatriots in and out of Rwanda.

The aim was to negotiate an understanding that all Rwandans had equal right to their country.

But France would have none of this. And, of course, its fellow Western countries could not let down their Western ally - at least not openly. And so they rallied behind it.

It thus got a free hand to set about 'reorganising' the country before it slipped through its hands. After RPF's attack it mobilised all of Francophone Africa, some Anglophones, too, to repulse the attack. On October 4, after getting the simulation of an RPA attack on Kigali it desired, it joined the fray by launching Opération Noroît, ostensibly to evacuate foreign nationals. In truth, it was a crack force that bolstered the Africans to wipe out the "cockroaches" (it didn't shy away from using the term, too).

Unfortunately, the "pests" were not going away. In fact, after months of this dogged effort, sometimes playing at withdrawing when abuses on the RPA and "their allies inside the country" (read a section of Rwandans) were being noticed, they could see the RPA gaining more ground. This was despite all the sophistication of satellite surveillance and bombardments with heavy machinery, topped with a diplomatic campaign.

Diplomatically and on the battleground, the RPF was winning over more attention. At the UN and in all countries, the RPF was fast gaining favour. At the battleground, RPA fighters would lie low and let the French bombardments wear themselves out, only to spring out of their fox-holes and surround the Habyarimana soldiers sent to mop them up.

Then they would begin re-education for eventual reintegration for the RPF/A to swell up the ranks of its politicians and fighters. It's a practice still prevalent today, to swell up the ranks of cleansed Rwandans.

Even as the RPF/A watched, however, the French were organising Rwanda for a more terrible war. It was a war of the government against innocent citizens and the masses against their fellow citizens. That's how Rwanda was plunged in the most horrendous genocide of the 20th century.

The RPF/A watched in utter stupefaction and horror but wiped its tears and gathered its wits and picked its guns.

Rwandans had learnt the art of using the spear that spits fire that tore them apart at the close of the 1800s and were not going to let their respectable farm implements be used to disembowel their country.

By May 1994, as they were going to halt the genocide machine, France was in a panic; it was going to lose to a puny setup - and one whose many languages included English.

On June 20, '94 it presented a draft resolution to the UN Security Council, which quickly adopted it. In three days, the first contingents of a melange of French and some African troops camped on the western axis of Rwanda, with enough military hardware to blow the African continent to the four winds. This was Opération Turquoise, which followed in the footsteps of a futile Opération Amaryllis.

As the Interahamwe militias did their mop-up job, France would send off these "multilingual" pests in a way they'd never see respite again.

This, however, it revised when a few days later the RPA captured some of its crack troops and traded them with a revision of its contingents' mandate. By the end of June it'd realised that the only available recourse was crossing into Goma. But even there, their effort came to nil.The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

History of protracted campaign and intrigue to smear the RPF government with the littlest dirt available as you see it today. Nothing is too cheap to resort to in this sacred crusade.

So, even the hitherto authoritative BBC is rolling in the mud. Bruising a super power? Funds, and whatever else it takes, must be deployed. There must be no respite!

In a nutshell, that's how, this bad blood.

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