1994 Finally

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For the first time a French Court has ordered a Rwandan; Pascal Simbikangwa, a former Rwandan Army Captain to face trial over the country’s 1994 genocide.  He faces charges of being complicit in crimes against humanity and genocide.

Arrested on the French island of Mayotte in 2008, Simbikangwa now a paraplegic after a traffic accident 1996 was an intelligence officer for Rwanda’s predominantly Hutu controlled Government.  His arrest was conducted under an international arrest warrant for his alleged involvement in the genocide, which killed in excess of 800,000 people, who were mostly ethnic Tutsis in about a 12-month period.

In early 2010 France set up a new unit to try cases of genocide and crimes against humanity mostly associated with the former Belgian colony of Rwanda involving suspects detained in France.  Two investigating magistrates from the unit ordered the trial last Friday (29 Mar. 2013) following a request from prosecutors earlier in the year.

France in the past has repeatedly refused to extradite genocide suspects to Rwanda, fearing they would be denied a fair trial, but has sent some to Tanzania to face trial at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.  But, Simbikangwa, born in 1959, who is accused of being a member of the Akazu, an informal organisation of Hutu extremists believe to have planned and implemented the genocide, and a  former member of Rwanda’s presidential guard, is also accused of having armed the Interahamwe Hutu militia encouraging them to massacre minority Tutsis. This is being used as a test case in light of France’s recent involvement in her former African colonies and those they have been closely associated with.

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At the time an absurd calculation was made by the Americans who had recently lost battle troops on the ground in Mogadishu that 1 American life was worth more than 100,000 Rwandan lives.  A calculation that took a lot of living-down.

Clearing-up the mess was given to a massively under-resourced UN armed unit with observer status only led by the Heroic Romeo Dallier, a Captain in the Canadian Military.  He went on to write a book “Shake hands with the Devil” in which he re-counts his impossible mission. In it he heaps praise on the troops from the surrounding African Nations but is highly critical of nations such as Bangladesh who sent troops without uniforms, weapons and transport, suggesting that these developing nations were using the Rwandan crisis as a UN funded training camp with real bullets.

Many films have been made about the genocide including “Hotel Rwanda” and “Shooting Dogs”.  Both films I’ve watched a number of times and they still bring tears.  I have visited Arusha in Tanzania where ironically the peace accord that led to the beginning of the genocide was signed.

Thankfully today the tensions are not quite so high but the genocide continues in neighboring Congo where conflict rages among local highly armed gangs of militia.

It is probably fair to say that where people have nothing to lose, where life has no perceived value that evil will reside.  Add to this the combination of massive natural resources which sell at relatively high values to big corporations and you have a fatal mix, one that simple politics probably isn’t up to the job of fixing.

The French have taken a shade under 20-years to face up to the problems of Africa, but they have made a start.  Where then will the support and follow-on come from I ask?  The UN is past a point where it can possibly offer a solution, we need as the human species to come up with a better solution.

Africa, and Africans need wealth creation activities more than anything else.  It is putting the African continent to work and rewarding that work properly that will help prevent the on-going low-key genocide from persisting.

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