France, Rwanda and the ICC- Something shady

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By Collins Wanderi

THE United Nations Security Council recently rejected the African Union motion for the deferral of the two cases facing President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Deputy William Ruto before the International Criminal Court (ICC). It was not surprising. Time and history show that the United Nations is not about the furtherance of justice, democracy or human rights. It is an organisation designed to further the political, economic and commercial interests of the five permanent members of the UNSC and other major economies of the world which fund the UN and its specialised organs.

A few facts will illustrate that the UNSC often functions to promote the political and economic interests of its five permanent members rather than foster world peace and security. Between April and July 1994 the UNSC failed Rwanda. It failed to intervene to save over a million of lives even when information available was clear that mass murder was happening in an unprecedented scale in recent history. Historians and commentators have suggested that the UNSC was acting at the behest of France, a permanent member of the UNSC.

Of the five permanent members of the UNSC, France is the most anomalous. Between 1990 and 1994 the French government supported and propped up the regime of President Juvenal Habyarimana in Rwanda. It provided a safe haven for the Akazu or the War Council that was the power behind Habyarimana’s government.

The French also gave funds and logistical support for the training and arming of the Force Arme Rwandaise (FAR), the gendarmerie as well as the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi militia groups which eventually executed genocidal attacks against the Tutsi minority and moderate Hutus.

When the murderous Hutu regime fell to the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), the FAR and huge populations of their sympathisers crossed into Eastern Congo DRC with the tacit logistical support of the French government. In those camps the FAR organised the refugees into some form of a government in exile where they were fed and catered for the by the UN which had completely ignored the victims of their atrocities back in Rwanda.

Interestingly it is the UNSC which allowed France to send its forces to Rwanda in 1994 under the guise of Operation Turquoise to essentially provide a safe passage to enable the genocidaires cross into Eastern DRC and eventually escape justice. As a result of this inflow of armed groups into its Eastern Provinces, the DRC experienced massive political instability and endured two non-international armed conflicts in 1996 and 1998.

The situation almost turned catastrophic in 1999 and to forestall fresh genocidal attacks in the Great Lakes Region, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in conjunctions with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) launched the Great Lakes Operation (GLO) in early 1999 with the sole aim of resolving the issues relating to the Rwandan refugees case load in Eastern DRC.

Eligibility officers based in Nairobi recorded horrendous accounts of extreme suffering from the survivors of the Rwandan genocide. Almost all the survivors of genocide blamed the French government for supporting, training and arming the perpetrators of genocide and for sending its forces to provide a safe passage for the perpetrators to flee into Congo and escape justice.

It is no secret that most of the political leaders who fanned the ideology of genocide in Rwanda fled to Belgium and France after the collapse of the Hutu regime.

Currently, reports from New York suggest that French envoy and economic strategist Béatrice Le Fraper du Hellen is leading the onslaught against the African Union’s motion for the deferral of the Kenyan cases before the ICC.

Being a member of the French government’s delegation to the United Nations she must have the express support of her government. It is paradoxical that a country that would readily host and protect genocidaires is now lecturing the African Union on matter relating to human rights, justice and democracy.

One of the key tenets of President Kenyatta and his Deputy Ruto’s campaign was ethnic reconciliation and harmony. The two leaders used the campaign platform to promote peace and harmony among communities that had hitherto been warring particularly in the Rift Valley. They managed to convince these communities to vote on one side and won the election.

The two are the chief sponsors and guarantors of the peace and calm that is currently being enjoyed in the Rift Valley and many parts of Kenya.

It would be naive for anybody to imagine that Kenya will remain peaceful if any of the two leaders is removed from the country by the ICC. Renewed ethnic strife in the whole or part of Kenya would definitely be a threat to national and regional peace and stability.

But the French see things differently. Their behaviour is not surprising. It is symptomatic of their attitude towards Africa where they support weak regimes and exploit fragile ethnic differences between opposing groups thereby gaining a political hold over fledgling regimes and a chance to advance their commercial interests.

It is no wonder that most of the countries that have experienced political upheavals and inter ethnic conflict in Africa are from the Francophone sphere. Rwanda, Burundi, Congo-DRC, Congo-Brazzaville, Ivory Coast, Chad, Mali, Madagascar and currently Central Africa Republic easily come to mind. It is no secret that a number of companies from France have expressed interest in some of these infrastructural projects.

Kenya seems to be leaning towards the East precisely China thus denying France and other members of the European Union a chance to partake in these multi-billion dollar projects. This begs the question; is France using the ICC cases and its permanent membership in the UNSC to arm-twist the government of Kenya in order to obtain preferential treatment in matters relating to international trade?

Time and space will eventually answer this question. Is France ready to risk the security of millions of Kenyans just to obtain a comparative economic advantage? Do the French care for the safety of Kenyan citizens who look up at the presidency to guarantee their peace and security?

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