This is a continuation of an exclusive interview with RPF insider, Senator Tito Rutaremara, and Taarifa’s Chief Editor Magnus Mazimpaka. In this second segment, Rutaremara discloses more details of what happened the night of the shooting of Habyarimana’s plane. Who took over as the interim leader of government? Who chaired the meeting that discussed the fate of the presidency? In the previous segment, we stopped at Alain Juppe announcing on radios and other platforms saying that Rwandans had refused to be ruled by RPF that had already conquered the nation. In this segment, we begin with going back as far as the days when RPF chairman, Paul Kagame, was in France as the leader of the RPA, to negotiate for a truce that would push Habyariman’s government for a political settlement.
Was it the time when Kagame was arrested in a hotel in France?
Rutaremara: That was before. As France closely worked with Habyarimana’s government, they wanted Kagame to negotiate with Habyarimana. He had gone there on the invitation of France and we had been going there. There is a young boy who was found with fake dollars in the delegation headed by Kagame. It was a fake note he had given by a Forex Bureaus in Kampala unknowingly. But they arrested Kagame instead of the culprit. Actually, Kagame was not aware of that; he learnt about it later. How would you dare arrest the head of the delegation you invited, accusing him of the fake note he did not possess himself? You would arrest me because I am in the same delegation with someone with a single note. And they had him held in the hotel for 10 hours to humiliate him. Besides, Kagame used to have official notes as he got money from legal banks not from Forex Bureaus. Obviously they wanted something else.
What was Alain Juppe’s position in France during the genocide and what role did he play?
Rutaremara: He was the Minister for Foreign Affairs in 1994 and came to be the Prime Minister in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1998. The military grew their hatred for Rwanda because Kagame and his troops defeated their war strategies. That is for the military. About why the French politicians hate Rwanda, it is because the government of their ally has been defeated. The overwhelming shame traced to their role in the 1994 Genocide underlies their hate towards us and it is because we constantly accuse them of compliance in the Genocide. But these politicians kept fighting us diplomatically around the world. They believed the population would not accept to be ruled by RPF as they had fled to Congo. They thought we would be defeated politically with conviction that the population would rebel against us when they returned to the country but it did not go according to their plan. RPF introduced Unity and Reconciliation, which was a success and reintegrated the defeated army into RPA [now RDF], a policy they expected to fail. They wanted to use politicians like Faustian Twagiramungu and others against RPF. They also failed. Majority Rwandans wanted Kagame, and they still do. This annoyed the French politicians. They kept instigating ethnicity to antagonize us. Nowadays they fight against Rwanda diplomatically, through their researchers, academicians and NGOs in conferences, the academia and their media. They used “Reporteurs Sans Frontieres’’, a French NGO. They accused us of killing journalists. Time came and they started using judges like Bruguerre, who released arrest warrants. They told other countries like Spain to enforce the warrants, but we have won the battle. They had said that, “We would not survive politically for two years.” But we kept moving on. The country is developing. I remember when Pastor Bizimungu resigned from the presidency, France thought there would be an uprising in the country but to their shame the country remained calm and peaceful.
And then Twagiramungu lost in the 2003 elections?
Rutaremara: Yes, you know, in the 2003 Presidential elections, there was a French woman who came as an observer and hoped Kagame would lose, especially in the northern region. She was there when people voted. And at the polling station, she heard electoral officers read, “Kagame, Kagame, Kagame, Kagame and when she got out of the polling station, she burst into tears. She could not imagine how Kagame won his opponent by a landslide in that very region.
Meanwhile there was also a campaign to frustrate Rwanda’s efforts join the Commonwealth?
Rutaremara: Yes. They went around the world rallying against us. At first, they did not want us to join EAC, the English-speaking countries. President Kagame is popular than the French in West Africa. Eight West African presidents come to his inauguration ceremony yet they never went to France for similar ceremonies. France is offended when countries like Senegal, Mali, and Algeria come to Rwanda for study tours. For some reasons, it’s the politicians and the high-ranking army officials with a grudge, not ordinary citizens.
Do you think this pull and push relationship will have an end?
Rutaremara: Yes, it will end when the generation, of the top military officials and politicians who feel they were defeated strategically in Rwanda, comes to an end. The problem is that clique of Mitterrand is still around. They do not understand how a small and impoverished country in the Central Africa can defeat them and dare fight them because when the French soldiers came in Africa, African soldiers stopped and surrendered like it happened in Mali and Central Africa Republic. They only hate us because we could not kneel or bow before them but we dared to fight them.
But on the other side, that is not an easy thing…
Rutaremara: You understand they are a powerful nation, but we cannot submit to them. Other African countries ask how dare we fight France and close their embassy. I remember when I met Burkinabe and Senegalese who told me `We used to love Kagame but now he might be crazy to close the French embassy’. When I told them that we even had closed the German embassy, they thought Rwandans are crazy. Equally, they were surprised when Sarkozy came to Rwanda, then they said “You are powerful, you brought Sarkozy to Kigali?’’ By the way, those who say we left Francophone are wrong. We are in both the Commonwealth and the Francophone.
These are the problems resulting from our popularity.
Tell us about this case of 22 French army officers Rwanda is investigating…
Rutaremara: In the night the Habyarimana plane was downed, I was in CND. I called Jean Jacques Roger Bobo who represented the UN in Rwanda and asked him “I see the genocide started, what happened? Why didn’t you call us after the death of Habyarimana? I asked him the question because it was in the Arusha peace accords meetings that if the President left power by accident, we would all sit together first and plan for the future and forge the way forward. He answered that he knew nothing. I also called Romeo Dallaire who told me that they reinstated a military regime and his reply surprised me. When I asked him about who were in the meeting, he answered: “Me, Jacques Rogers Bobo and diplomats from the French, American, Belgian, Germany and Tanzanian embassy.” I called Jacques Rogers Bobo again and I asked him why he had entrusted the presidency with another person? He denied it yet he was the one who chaired the meeting. I again approached Romeo Dallaire and asked him about the plane crash that had taken the lives of two Presidents. I was really troubled by the death of the Burundian President and not Habyarimana. Romeo Dallaire said “I sent our troops to the site of the plane crash site so that they may take photos and may be find the black box. But French and the Rwandan army blocked those of the UNAMIR.
Mazimpaka: Has the black box been found? Where is it?
Rutaremara: No, the black box has never been displayed. It was later said that it was found but it later emerged no one has tangible information about it. No one show it to the world because it could show who really shot the plane. Maybe the pilot revealed some details about the incident before he died. If we were the ones who had shot the plane, then the Rwandan government and the French would not have stopped the UN from accessing the scene to search for the black box. Dallaire called them to authorize UNAMIR peacekeepers to access the tragic scene, but they adamantly turned down his request. He told me that he had telephoned Bagosora and the people at the French embassy who also refused to let the UN army access the scene. If it were the RPF who shot the plane, they would have let the UN find the black box so that our role in the murder of the two Presidents aboard the plane would be exposed. UNAMIR peacekeepers only gained access to the scene of the plane crash after RPF had overrun the airport. The claim that the plane was shot by the RPF was coined later. France went on with its fabrications that the RPF shot the plane hence sparking the Genocide against the Tutsi. French Judge Jean Luis Bruguerre, basing on this false information, issued an international arrest warrants and on the list were President Kagame, Kayumba Nyamwasa and other senior Rwandan army officers. They sent the arrest warrants to the Interpol and asked European countries to go ahead and arrest the officers if they ever travel to Europe. They asked a Spanish judge to issue another arrest warrant accusing the RPF of killing their priests in DRC and Rwanda. Comparatively, the French judge had done it intellectually while the Spanish one had written the names of soldiers who had died when the struggle had started before the killings of the priests and he wrote the names of the generals who would not shoot. We asked them to start the investigations and file the case but they turned a deaf ear to the matter. The propaganda intended to prevent our leaders from traveling worldwide for the fear to face arrest. That is what happened to Rose Kabuye who was arrested in Germany and later transferred to Paris to be tried but they found no evidence against her. That is why she returned here safely. Jean Luis Bruguerre quit the judiciary to join politics, which he unfortunately lost. The case was handed to another judge who came to Rwanda and did research and found out that the people who were at Kanombe camp shot the plane. He did the research with the British experts who proved scientifically that people from the Kanombe camp controlled by Habyarimana’s army and the French shot down the plane. The problem resurfaced when Kayumba told the world that he knows that it is Kagame who shot down the RPF. Later, we also issued an international arrest warrant against French military officers. We were fed up of being in defensive, but we want to be at the “offensive” also. And their soldiers committed those crimes while what they accuse us of committing is false.
But has it put pressure on them?
Rutaremara: Yes it mounted the pressure on them. You understand, they said they will come and be interrogated at the embassy. They will come but they accepted it officially but it is only speeches to be seen just internationally.
Will those 22 soldiers accept to be interrogated?
Rutaremara: They won’t. But let them refuse to be interrogated. So that it mounts the pressure on them (laughing).
Is there any other thing you need more than putting pressure on them?
Rutaremara: It is because they committed the crimes. It is not like us, because they bring false accusations against us.
Will Rwanda pursue the case?
Rutaremara: They are likely not going to accept to be interrogated. But if they accept, investigations will be done and some of them will plead guilty, but they will not accept investigations to be carried out to the extent the Rwandan government did. We will be saying “You see they don’t accept to be investigated, they are refusing to come.’’
Why do you think they can’t accept to be investigated?
Rutaremara: They cannot accept to be investigated; they will tactfully find ways to evade the investigations. France cannot accept their generals to be seen as criminals internationally. You see this candidate, François Fillon, understands them and he is on their side.
What would happen if François Fillon turns out to be open?
François Fillon was the Prime Minister. He may be on the list of the criminals, but that would tell us nothing. Let them face the pressure.
President Kagame has been to France twice. How is the feeling when he goes there?
Rutaremara: When His Excellency went there, Alain Juppe, who was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, went to China as he had said he did not want to shake hands with President Kagame. Alain Juppe lost in the primaries for a flag bearer in his own party.
What was the reaction from the high ranked military men?
Rutaremara: Military officials keep quiet. They have associations and they are the ones who provide money to the media and the NGOs to harass us.
What are the benefits Rwanda gets from her diplomatic relationships with France?
Rutaremara: Absolutely nothing. Since the end of the Genocide they gave us nothing. And when they give scholarships, they give them to Rwandan refugees who live there and they say that they gave scholarships to Rwandans while they do not give scholarships to Rwandans here.
Diplomatically, what are lessons, Rwanda as a nation, draws from this relationship with France?
Rutaremara: We actually don’t need to see our relationship with France severe. And you know, first of all, France is a powerful country, any country would like to be in good relations with a powerful nation, and their voice is louder than ours, internationally. Secondly, we have allies who are allies to France too, understanding our pain and truth, come and say “It is not good for you to have poor relations with France, let us devise means of improving the relations’’. They advise us to look for a way we can improve our diplomatic relations. These Human Rights NGOs that operate in countries like DRC are from USA but as they need French-speaking people, they hire the French who harbour other negative intentions. In the UN Council, French-speaking countries regard France as the most influential nation and France writes reports on human rights and they use those reports against us. They may do it on their own but they report may influence a country like Italy for instance to act against us. This is bad for our country. We pray France leaves us to enjoy our peace; it would be better because, no country would like to have enemies that are more powerful. When you have an enemy who is more powerful, you do not act freely. We can resist as we did, but we would have reached further and achieved more if we had not had France as our enemy. Our friends like Great Britain always advise us to seek means of restoring diplomatic relations with France but France adamantly frustrates our requests for talks.
Is that because France feels a relationship with Rwanda is not necessary?
Rutaremara: Yes, it is the arrogance. They have the arrogance of the highest level.
Don’t they impose conditions on Rwanda?
Rutaremara: No conditions. They say: ‘what would we benefit from that small African country? Yet they don’t like the progress in Rwanda. We wish they would leave us alone. They are even free to stop their aid but they should give us peace and let us do our things.
EXCLUSIVE PART 1: Tito Rutaremara Reveals Secrets Behind France-Rwanda Relations