Rwanda yesterday accused France of complicity– even active involvement– in the genocide of 1994. This is a long-standing allegation, now apparently given formal weight by the findings of an independent Rwandan commission.
In the report, President Francois Mitterrand (now dead of course), former prime minister Edouard Balladur, and two men who went on to become prime minister–Alain Juppe, foreign minister at the time, and his then chief aide Dominique de Villepin–are all accused of having blood on their hands. The French have obviously rejected these claims.
It so happens that last week, on our honeymoon, my wife and I went round the Genocide Memorial Center–as you do when you’re in love–in Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. The tour was saddening and disturbing, yet the curators seemed annoyingly fixated with showing how Westerners were to blame. Dreadlocked Caucasian trendies welled up with shame as they walked around the exhibits.
Hang on though, I thought…While divisive colonial rule, arms-dealing western governments, the interference of the Catholic Church, meddling by secular do-gooders, and UN inaction all undoubtedly played their parts in the tragedy, it was frustrating that the exhibition largely failed to confront Rwanda’s role in its own atrocity. The blood crazed Hutus–the people who actually did the mass murdering–were Rwandans, after all.
It is easy to see why Rwanda needs to pass its bloody buck to the West. Blaming foreign influence can help its people heal, and smooth over lingering ethnic tensions and bitterness. But Rwandans might one day have to face their awful truths.