Troops gather at Congo-Rwanda border after clashes
June 13, 2014 | 0 Comments
Soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) arrive in tanks near the town of Kibumba at its border with Rwanda after fighting broke out in the Eastern Congo town June 11, 2014.
Credit: Reuters/Kenny Katombe[/caption] Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda sent extra troops to their shared border on Thursday after gunfire briefly broke out for the second day, ending months of relative calm in the volatile region. Congolese and Rwandan officials each accused the other’s armies of mounting cross-border raids on Wednesday that prompted heavy fire between the two forces. Gunfire was reported early on Thursday morning but had ceased by 0800 local time. U.N.-backed Congolese troops crushed an uprising last year in eastern Congo, a mineral-rich area plagued by years of war, which borders Rwanda. A Reuters reporter near the town of Kibumba in eastern Congo saw soldiers with heavy weapons gathering on both sides of the border throughout the morning. “There were some shots fired but very few. It has already finished,” Congo’s North Kivu governor, Julien Paluku, said. “The shots came from the Rwandan troops, our forces did not respond. They have clear instructions not to shoot unless the situation becomes very serious. We are not at war with Rwanda,” he told Reuters by telephone. Rwandan officials could not immediately be reached for comment on the clashes that first erupted near Kibumba. “I appeal for calm from both sides and urge them to take immediate steps to re-establish security in the border area,” Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. mission in Congo MONUSCO, said in a statement. France’s foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said he was “concerned” by the violence and called for an immediate halt to fighting. INVESTIGATION Kinshasa blamed Rwandan forces for provoking Wednesday’s clashes by seizing and later killing a Congolese soldier. Rwanda said its army killed five Congolese troops after they crossed the border and attacked Rwandan units, although Congo insists it lost only one soldier. A Reuters cameraman on the Rwandan side of the border on Thursday saw five bodies lying in a beanfield wearing uniforms with the Congolese flag. “They have surely taken some bodies, perhaps villagers, and put (Congolese army) uniforms on them,” said Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende. Residents said the Congolese soldiers were killed after they tried to steal cows, adding border incursions were frequent. A regional inspection team was visible on the Rwandan side of the frontier, surrounded by Rwandan troops, as part of an investigation into the cause of the flare-up. Rwandan troops have backed Congolese rebels during two wars in Congo since 1996 before Rwandan troops officially withdrew in 2003. Since then, Kinshasa and U.N. experts have repeatedly accused Kigali of backing Congolese rebels. Rwanda denies the charges and says Congo is harboring elements of the FDLR Hutu militia that took part in the 1994 genocide, killing at least 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. *Source Reuters]]>
Rwanda survivor's book challenges Hollywood
June 6, 2014 | 0 Comments
By * [caption id="attachment_9707" align="alignleft" width="282"] Edouard Kayihura, survivor of the genocide in Rwanda[/caption] The dreams still come to Edouard Kayihura. In them, he is running in fear from people intent on killing him. They’re the bad dreams of a man who lived a real-life nightmare: Kayihura, who lives in Westerville, is a survivor of the 1994 genocide that killed at least 800,000 people in the African nation of Rwanda. To mark the 20th anniversary of the slaughter, he has co-written a controversial book, Inside the Hotel Rwanda: The Surprising True Story . . . and Why It Matters Today (BenBella, 260 pages, $24.95). In recounting the horror, the book challenges the well-known Hollywood depiction of it in the 2004 movie Hotel Rwanda. “It’s wrong,” Kayihura said in an interview. “The (movie) . . . is wrong.” On April 6, 1994, Kayihura was working as a prosecutor in Kigali, the Rwandan capital, when the nation’s president died after his plane was shot down. The Hutus, Rwanda’s ruling ethnic group, blamed rebels from the Tutsi minority and began a wave of killings. Kayihura, a Tutsi, spent several hellish days evading death squads before a Hutu friend risked his own life to get him to the Hotel des Mille Collines, which had token protection provided by U.N. troops. Hundreds of desperate Tutsis sought refuge there. “At least I will die with other people,” Kayihura thought. In Hotel Rwanda, hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle) is portrayed as a hero who kept more than 1,000 people out of the clutches of the killers who roamed just outside. But Kayihura’s book charges that Rusesabagina socialized with leaders of the genocide and cruelly demanded money for food and rooms from the penniless refugees. He writes that leaders of the genocide spent time in the hotel with Rusesabagina, “sharing laughs and drinking, leading the rest of us to wonder when one of them might simply pull a gun and shoot us for the sport of it.” The movie’s release prompted Kayihura to start working on a book with his version of events. Its publication in April brought protest from Rusesabagina, a Hutu who now lives in Texas and operates a foundation that promotes a truth and reconciliation commission for Rwanda. Rusesabagina said in an interview that he had no way of knowing who was friend and who was foe among the armed men who passed through the hotel during those tense weeks in 1994. And, he said, he managed meager food and water as best he could under trying circumstances. “The most important mission was to save the maximum of lives, and I happened to save all the people who came to my hotel. None was killed. None was picked up. None was beaten.” The siege lasted until the end of May, when the hotel refugees were exchanged for hundreds of Hutu prisoners being held by a Tutsi opposition force. Kayihura lost many family members in the genocide. Afterward, he returned to his work as a prosecutor, helping the coalition government that formed after the slaughter to prosecute those responsible. He moved to the United States in 2000 and married a Rwandan woman, who works as a social worker in central Ohio. He received a degree from Ohio State University’s Moritz College of Law but hasn’t worked as a lawyer. Spreading the word about his book is his main occupation. Kayihura, whose English is limited, wrote the book with Kerry Zukus, a New Jersey author who has written or co-written more than 40 books. Zukus said Kayihura’s story has been corroborated by others who were in the hotel. “I believe he is absolutely telling the truth.” Rusesabagina also has supporters — including Terry George, director of Hotel Rwanda, who wrote recently in a Huffington Post blog that Rusesabagina is the victim of a smear campaign motivated by Rwandan politics. In the forward to his book, Kayihura said he is grateful that Hotel Rwanda brought the genocide to the attention of Americans. But he deplores the distortions that, he said, made a hero of the hotel manager. “His voice has been heard,” he wrote. “Now is the time for the voices of other survivors.” *Source Columbus Dispatch]]>
Kagame: We will arrest or shoot anyone posing a security threat
June 6, 2014 | 1 Comments
[caption id="attachment_9701" align="alignleft" width="300"] President Paul Kagame at a past function. He has said that his country will continue to arrest or “even shoot on the spot” individuals who wish to destabilise Rwanda’s state security. Photo/FILE|AFP[/caption]
President Paul Kagame has said that his country will continue to arrest or “even shoot on the spot” individuals who wish to destabilise Rwanda’s state security.
President Kagame spoke on Thursday while addressing residents of Nyabihu district in the northwestern part of the country.
“Those who talk about disappearances… we will continue to arrest more suspects and if possible shoot in broad daylight those who intend to destabilise our country,” he said, amid applause.
The President statement came hours after the United States State Department said it was “deeply concerned” by the recent spate of arrests and disappearance of dozens of Rwandan citizens inside the country.
Rwandan security organs in recent months have conducted operations in the northwestern part of the country, rounding up dozens of people suspected of working with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The DR Congo-based rebel outfit is linked to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.
The US government expressed concern that Rwandan authorities have held individuals incommunicado for periods of up to two months before presenting them in court.
“We are encouraged that Rwandan authorities have recently taken steps to bring a number of these individuals before a court. Nonetheless, the United States remains concerned that additional individuals may still be held incommunicado and without due process of law.
“We are also concerned by credible reports that individual journalists were threatened, and that the Government of Rwanda ordered the suspension of a call-in radio programme that provided citizens with a platform to discuss current events,” the Department of State said in a statement Wednesday.
President Kagame, in an apparent response to the US, said that his government will not tolerate anyone who wishes to “throw grenades at innocent citizens and babies” in the name of politics.
“Those who have a problem with the government should come to me instead of throwing grenades at innocent civilians and babies. I should be the one responsible, but they also know the consequences of coming for me,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Louise Mushikiwabo responded to the accusations of disappearances, saying that the government is dealing with a specific security challenge in the north of the country, where FDLR and their associates have been infiltrating and recruiting fighters.
She said a judicial process is underway to try to suspects accused of masterminding grenade attacks in different parts of the country. She said the issue has been discussed with diplomats.
“In all instances, police and security agencies in Rwanda have acted lawfully. Accused individuals are entitled to, and receive, due process. Suggestions otherwise, including claims of disappearances, are false.
The US called on Rwanda to account for individuals arrested over the past two months and to respect their rights under Rwandan and international human rights laws.
The alleged disappearances, recently highlighted by Human Rights Watch (HRW), also sparked an altercation between Kigali and the rights watchdog.
*Source The East African
Rwanda to open five new embassies
June 4, 2014 | 0 Comments
By Athan Tashobya* The Government has announced plans to open five new embassies to strengthen its bilateral relations with various countries. According to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, the new embassies will be opened in Angola, Zambia, Congo-Brazzaville, Abu Dhabi, and Israel. Speaking yesterday as she appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Budget and Patrimony to discuss the ministry’s budget framework for the next financial year, Mushikiwabo said the move aims at promoting Rwanda’s continental and worldwide relations and operations. According to the budget framework, the ministry plans to spend Rwf3.2 billion from its budgetary allocation towards the opening of these embassies. “We plan to expand to the other parts of the world and we have also made it policy to increase our presence on the African continent. Southern Africa is an area where we feel we need more presence, not only for connecting with the countries, but also for investments,” Mushikiwabo told The New Times in a subsequent interview. According to the minister, Rwanda has already received agreements from the two southern African governments of Luanda-Angola and Lusaka-Zambia. Mushikiwabo further stated that they are in the process of procuring offices and carrying out discussions with respective ministries of foreign affairs to ensure that the operations get started. “Opening up an embassy in Israel and Congo Brazzaville, for the central African area is also in the pipeline. I expect these embassies to be operational in the next two months,” Mushikiwabo added. Only two embassies have been serving all the southern African countries. These are; Pretoria, South Africa and the one in Kinshasa, in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Financial constraints Much as the ministry allocated Rwf3.2 billion towards opening of the new missions, the ministry has a general financial gap of about 2.7 billion to ensure all embassies, including the new ones to be created, are facilitated for the coming financial year. Mushikiwabo said they need atleast Rwf19.2 billion to facilitate all diplomatic missions, but the Ministry for Finance, according to the budget framework, allocated these activities only Rwf16.3 billion. However, Mushikiwabo told the Parliamentary Committee that they are in discussions with the Ministry for Finance to ensure that the costs for the opening of the new embassies are met and the budget shortfalls do not affect their plans to expand presence in different countries. Constance Mukayuhi Rwaka, the committee chairperson said she hopes the Foreign Affairs Ministry would get the required funds to facilitate their budget, saying that the ministry serves the interests of the country at the international level. MP Devota Uwamariya, who described Minaffet as “the heart of the nation” in as far diplomacy is concerned, also suggested that should need arise, the finance ministry could use any reserve funds they may have to facilitate any urgent projects for the ministry. *Source newtimes]]>
Rwanda, HRW in row over bias allegations
June 4, 2014 | 0 Comments
Human Rights Watch has reacted angrily to Rwandan allegations of bias in its reporting on the east African nation, saying it has been “misrepresented” and its staff “disparaged”.The statement from the group, released overnight on Monday, came after Rwanda’s justice ministry accused the rights organisation of colluding with terrorists and signalled it may no longer be allowed to work in the country. “Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned that the Rwandan Ministry of Justice has grossly misrepresented the work of Human Rights Watch and disparaged its staff,” the group said in a statement. “Human Rights Watch has worked on Rwanda for more than 20 years, since before the 1994 genocide, documenting abuses against Rwandans and defending the human rights of all, regardless of their political or other affiliation,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Human Rights Watch and its staff are independent of any government or armed group. We strongly reject accusations of political bias and stand by our reporting on Rwanda.” On Monday Rwanda’s justice ministry said it had become “impossible to differentiate HRW’s activities… [and] political propaganda for terrorist groups”, a reference to exiled opposition groups and critics of the government of President Paul Kagame. Irreparable damage It also said HRW had violated a memorandum of understanding signed with the ministry that governs its presence in Rwanda, and warned that relations were “headed towards irreparable damage”. “The ministry has observed a consistent and persistent pattern of actions, activities and publications on the part of HRW that the Ministry finds capable of only one explanation: a deliberate, sustained, and politically motivated propaganda campaign against the Government of Rwanda,” it complained. It said HRW had also become a “valuable mouth piece for criminal and/or terrorist groups, particularly the FDLR” – or the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Rwandan Hutu rebels who include the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in their ranks and who are based in the forests of neighbouring DRC. The spat comes after HRW reported last month that an increasing number of people have been forcibly disappeared or have been reported missing in Rwanda since March 2014, and said there were “indications of involvement of state agents in the disappearances”. The group said some those detained were suspected of links to the FDLR. Kagame’s regime has also been accused of assassinating opposition figures and dissidents who are based abroad, charges the authorities in Kigali have strongly denied.
Kigali, Dar face off again over DRC conflict
June 1, 2014 | 0 Comments
Diplomatic tensions between Tanzania and Rwanda appeared set to escalate as the two countries once again traded accusation over the latter’s alleged backing of rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwanda National Congress goes for new faces in party elections
June 1, 2014 | 0 Comments
The Rwanda National Congress, an exiled opposition group operating from Washington, last week held elections that injected fresh blood into the party’s leadership.
Membe: 'Prove I was wrong about Rwanda stoking war in DRC, and I'll resign'
May 29, 2014 | 1 Comments
When I told the BBC that Rwandans were causing instability in Eastern Congo, I meant what I said” – Bernard Membe, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. PHOTO | FILE[/caption] Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister Bernard Membe said yesterday that he would resign if the Opposition proved his controversial remarks about Rwanda were wrong.
From Rwandan Garbage Dump To Harvard: Knowing When To Tell The 'Taxi' To Stop
May 27, 2014 | 0 Comments
T.P. Allen* Life — indeed, survival — was always difficult for 8-year-old Justus Uwayesu, but Sundays were particularly difficult. The garbage trucks did not run on Sundays, which meant his food would not be “delivered” to the Kigali City Dump where Justus lived as a double orphan. During the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, Justus’ father was executed for being born into a family whose identity cards had the Tutsi box arbitrarily checked. His mother vanished shortly thereafter and no doubt met the same fate, for she never would have willingly abandoned her 2-year-old child, Justus. By the time Justus was 8, he had meandered more than 100 kilometers, ending up in the garbage dump for Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. Amid that stench was the buffet he ate from every day. His home was a stripped out, tireless car, in which he slept on and under pieces of cardboard. The car had no windows, but provided some protection from the rain and the equatorial sun, and the pigs — those damn pigs which competed with Justus for food! They all preferred the waste from restaurants and hotels, from which Justus separated out bottle caps, toothpicks, soiled napkins, and more disgusting things, before dining on the remaining scraps of food. Then one Sunday, the traditional day of disappointment and hunger, down the dusty road rattled a taxi transporting Clare Effiong, a visitor from the U.S. and the type of “do-gooder” that seasoned development workers are quick to disparage. She was on a mission, “letting the Spirit lead” in a way that causes many to feel very uncomfortable and even suspicious. But the Spirit had led Clare to Rwanda, and on that particular day into that taxi and onto that dirt road. And when Clare saw a particular group of children (for there were many groups of OVCs — orphans and vulnerable children), she told the taxi driver, “Stop!” Through an interpreter Clare engaged the children in conversation, asking “what do you want,” and hearing the usual responses of money, clothes, etc. But when she asked little Justus, he said, “I want to go to school.” Of all the OVCs in that crowd, Justus was told to get in the taxi. Like the Good Samaritan who took the beaten and battered traveler to the inn for treatment and rest, Clare drove Justus to a friend’s home in Gikondo and told him, “Educate this boy and I will send money to pay for school fees, school materials, uniform, shoes — whatever.” From his first day of school, Justus’ most distinctive attribute has been (and remains) his ever-present conviction that it is a precious privilege to learn and study his way out of poverty. When Clare pulled Justus from the city garbage dump, he spoke only Kinyarwanda. When he graduated from high school, he spoke five languages. But languages were not his focus. He had become a brilliant math and chemistry student and was selected to join 30 students (out of 1,200+ applicants) in the Bridge2Rwanda (www.Bridge2Rwanda.org) Scholars Program that prepares Rwanda’s most gifted and promising students to successfully compete for international scholarships. Justus obsessively studied SAT and TOEFL test prep, English, research and writing, leadership, entrepreneurship, and discipleship, and received B2R’s guidance in applying to colleges and universities in the United States. As all college applicants (and their parents) know, March Madness is not about basketball, but rather college admission decisions. On “decision day,” at 11 PM Rwandan time (5 PM EST), Justus came to my home to use the Internet. He fumbled and struggled at first to get into the secure admissions site (while I felt my own anxiousness, knowing it would be on me to comfort and counsel Justus if the outcome was disappointment). Then the letter began to load, and Justus read the first word: “CONGRATULATIONS!” Justus screamed with joy and fell to the floor. When he composed himself, he borrowed my phone to call Clare in the U.S. “Mom, MOM!” he yelled. “I’m going to Harvard!” Reflecting on this highly improbable story, I think of the “butterfly effect” (small cause one place, a bigger effect somewhere else) and Clare and the many good folks who are the bookends of Justus’ journey, giving him a hand up along the way from garbage dump to Harvard. Too often, we are seduced into taking great comfort in the self-deception that the problems are too big and too many, and we cannot make a difference. But these good folks in Justus’ life knew that they could and should make a contribution from whatever they had; as a result, Justus is going to Harvard. (Another B2R classmate of Justus’ is also going to Harvard, and still others were admitted to U Penn, Dartmouth, Brown, University of Chicago, Northwestern, U.C. Berkeley, Claremont Colleges [Pitzer], Vanderbilt, Emory, Michigan State, Babson, Bates, and other highly selective schools.) Justus believes, passionately and emphatically, that unmerited favor has been lavished upon him. What has been done for him, he must now do for others. If he denies the poor, he denies himself. Self-affirmation requires him to pay it forward. As I continue on my own wandering journey, I want to be like Clare and know when to tell the taxi driver “Stop!” I want the necessary discernment and courage to respond to the opportunity before me — and to act. I’m often asked, “Why are you in Rwanda?” I have many deeply embraced answers, but after spending these recent days with Justus and other Bridge2Rwanda Scholars, I will offer this: Living in Rwanda is more thrilling than watching the best, most powerful, most emotionally rich and raw movies imaginable, and I actually get to have unvarnished, intimate conversations with the great actors as they are performing. Sometimes those conversations may even color and sharpen the performance. But whether or not I influence the performance, the performance always impacts and transforms me. I can hardly believe that I get to do this. Each day I arise with joy and wonder of yet another day. *Source huffingtonpost. T.P. Allen is Former L.A. attorney, now Country Director of Bridge2Rwanda]]>
East African leaders look to fast-track integration
May 5, 2014 | 0 Comments
By Eugene Kwibuka* [caption id="attachment_9224" align="alignleft" width="150"] President Kagame logs in to the Kenya National Electronic Window System (Kenya TradeNet) during 5th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit in Nairobi yesterday. Village Urugwiro.[/caption] President Paul Kagame yesterday launched Kenya National Electronic Single Window System seen as a major boost for regional trade since it will simplify clearance processes of goods. The launch was part of the activities of the 5th Northern Corridor Integration Projects Summit held in Nairobi, and was attended by Presidents Kagame, Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and Yoweri Kaguta of Uganda, as well as the second vice president of Burundi and Tanzania’s prime minister. Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya – which heavily rely on the Kenyan port of Mombasa – are spearheading a series of joint projects aimed at fast tracking regional development through joint infrastructure, trade and political and economic integration. The use of Electronic Single Window System is expected to centralise trade services such as tracking of goods, custom clearance, and electronic payment including through mobile money. The system will also integrate with Kenya Revenue Authority, making the clearance at Kenyan ports a lot faster and easier. “I just want to reiterate how this is one of many important projects that the East African Community partner states have undertaken to deepen integration that we have been seeking, make business more efficient, and lower the cost of doing business as we move forward,” Kagame said at the launch. Making tech tick He reiterated Rwanda’s “continued active participation towards making integration a reality.” President Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto described the Single Window System as yet another building bloc in the EAC integration process. “Our ultimate vision should be to implement an EAC Regional Single Window platform. The benefits from this initiative may not be fully realised unless all of us in the region adopt National Single Window Systems. “Our brothers in Rwanda are already implementing a Single Window System and similar efforts are underway in Tanzania and Uganda,” Kenyatta said. He added: “I truly believe that completion of these projects will make our region a world leader in terms of trade facilitation.” The Kenyan leader said the technology will make it possible for traders to submit information about their goods to multiple government agencies in multiple locations, making business faster and more efficient. After the launch of the Kenya National Electronic Single Window System, also known as Kenya TradeNet, the Heads of State and Government discussed the progress of several other projects under the Northern Corridor initiative. South Sudan on board In the meeting, the EAC leaders were joined by South Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit, whose country officially joined the Northern Corridor Integration Projects framework during the third summit in Kigali in October 2013. President Kenyatta said he was happy with the progress made in implementing the projects so far since the Principals’ inaugural meeting in June last year. Key areas discussed include power generation and interconnectivity, oil pipeline development, capacity building, establishment of commodity exchange, fast-tracking of political federation, construction of the railway, and defence, security and peace cooperation. The summit agreed to fast track the establishment of the commodities exchange, and committed to establishing a centre of excellence in respective countries and to ensure all citizens of partner states, including South Sudan, are able to attend institutions of higher learning for the same fee as nationals. Rwanda was designated as the one to take the lead in establishing a centre of excellence for GIS related training. The partner states also agreed to urgently address the issue of use of national ID with all member states national airlines, remove immigration barriers to labour and service provision and operationalise one common border post. Rwanda will take the lead on e-visa issuance for partner states, while member states also committed to developing strategies to reduce air travel cost between partner states. The leaders also agreed that construction of the gauge railway should begin no later than October 2014. In the field of ICT, the partner states agreed to implement a one area network by December 31, 2014 and incorporate fiber optic access on all Northern Corridor Integration Projects. Meanwhile, Burundi, which was represented by its Second Vice-President, Gervais Rufyikiri, confirmed its full participation in the integration projects. The projects were inaugurated at the summit of the countries that are served by the Northern Corridor held in Entebbe, Uganda, in June last year, bringing together Presidents Kagame, Kenyatta and Museveni. At the Nairobi summit yesterday, Tanzania was represented by its Prime Minister Mizengo Kayanda Peter Pinda. The leaders resolved to meet for their 6th summit in June in Kigali. * Source www.The New Times]]>
Controversial former Barclays UK head set to acquire Rwandan bank
April 21, 2014 | 0 Comments
Paul Redfern and Alex Ngarambe* Atlas Mara, the banking venture set up by controversial UK banker Bob Diamond and African billionaire Ashish Thakkar, has signed a deal to acquire the commercial arm of Rwanda’s state-controlled Development Bank of Rwanda (BRD).
Rwanda genocide: UN ashamed, says Ban Ki-moon
April 8, 2014 | 1 Comments
President Paul Kagame and UN chief Ban Ki-moon lit the torch[/caption]
The UN is still ashamed over its failure to prevent the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has said.He was addressing thousands of people in the capital, Kigali, as Rwanda began a week of official mourning to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide. Many people were overcome by emotion during the ceremony, with some suffering fits. At least 800,000 people – mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus – died at the hands of Hutu extremists. The killings ended ended in July 1994 when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a Tutsi-led rebel movement, marched into Kigali and seized control of the country. Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and Mr Ban lit a torch which will burn for 100 days – the length of time the genocide lasted. A diplomatic row has prompted Rwanda to bar France’s ambassador, Michel Flesch, from attending the event, AFP news agency reports.
The week of mourning began with a wreath-laying ceremony at the national genocide memorial, followed by the lighting of a flame at the Amahoro Stadium in Kigali, where UN peacekeepers protected thousands of people during the genocide.The torch has been carried across the country for the past three months, visiting 30 districts and passing from village to village. Thousands of people packed the stadium, having queued for hours through the fog, reports the BBC’s Charlotte Attwood from the scene. Many of them reacted with uncontrollable emotion to the stories, speeches and performances recalling the genocide, our correspondent says. Some of them had to be led out of the stadium while others had fits, she adds. [caption id="attachment_9087" align="alignright" width="300"] Thousands attended the ceremonies in the Amahoro Stadium, where UN peacekeepers saved many lives[/caption] Traditional mourning songs were broadcast over the sound systems. There was also a dramatisation of Rwanda’s recent history, which our correspondent says was a clear depiction of the government’s interpretation of events. In the play, a jeep carrying “colonialists” arrives, who swap their straw hats for UN blue helmets. They then desert the people, who are saved by the governing RPF. ‘Completely broken’ UN personnel in Rwanda during the genocide showed “remarkable bravery”, Mr Ban told the crowd, according to AP. “But we could have done much more. We should have done much more,” he said. “In Rwanda, troops were withdrawn when they were most needed,” he added. “One year later in Srebrenica, areas proclaimed ‘safe’ by the United Nations were filled with danger, and innocents were abandoned to slaughter. The shame still clings, a generation after the events,” Mr Ban said.
Mr Kagame said Rwanda was “completely broken” after the genocide, but it had managed to unite itself.“It [the genocide] simply should never have happened,” he added. Other international leaders present include Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, former South African President Thabo Mbeki and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, now an advisor to the Rwandan government. On Sunday, hundreds of people attended a Mass at Sainte-Famille Catholic church in Kigali to remember those who died in the church itself and elsewhere. A spokesman for the Rwandan government said France would not be represented at the events to mark the genocide. Mr Flesch told AFP that he had received a telephone call from the Rwandan foreign ministry to “inform me that I was no longer accredited for the ceremonies”. Earlier, the French foreign ministry said Mr Flesch would represent France at the events after Justice Minister Christiane Taubira cancelled plans to attend following an accusation by Mr Kagame that France had participated in the mass killings. France was a close ally of Mr Habyarimana’s government. In an interview with the French-language weekly news magazine Jeune Afrique, Mr Kagame denounced the “direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation for the genocide”. He also said that French troops had taken an “active” part in the killings. [caption id="attachment_9088" align="alignleft" width="300"] Tony Blair and Thabo Mbeki were among the foreign guests[/caption] France has rejected this charge, with Edouard Balladur, who was French prime minister in 1994, telling Europe 1 radio: “France is in no way complicit in the genocide. “On the contrary, it of all countries in the world was the only one that took the initiative to organise a humanitarian operation to prevent widespread massacres.” France did send troops who set up “safe zones” in Rwanda. It says they saved thousands of lives but Rwanda’s government has long said they did not do enough to stop the killing – and now says they worked with the Hutu militias carrying out the slaughter. *Source BBC]]>