SOME incidents take you back with a strong sharp jolt. So it was with your columnist when the French brought up that old canard that now President Paul Kagame of Rwanda had set off the Rwandan massacres of 1994 by shooting down the plane carrying then Rwandan President Habyarimana and the President
SOME incidents take you back with a strong sharp jolt. So it was with your columnist when the French brought up that old canard that now President Paul Kagame of Rwanda had set off the Rwandan massacres of 1994 by shooting down the plane carrying then Rwandan President Habyarimana and the President of Burundi. Why should he have embarked on such a hazardous venture? My mind went back to the French Ambassador in Uganda at the time, whom some of us called Discotheque (to his fury) because it was a close variation to his real name, which time has expunged from my memory.
As a matter of fact he was quite an engaging man, in his early forties I would say, and we thought it good sport to pull his leg, which was easily achieved. On this particular evening we had met at State Minister Betty Bigombeâ€™s house for a well-attended party; that pretty woman could throw a party! The time must have been in 1994, and the three-month massacre of Tutsi and moderate Hutu was a close and bleeding memory, although, as it turned out, we didnâ€™t even know the half of it. I tackled Discotheque about it, going as far as to accuse the French of being in a position to have stopped it if they had wanted to.
I went further, telling him that of all the players in the action France had the most to benefit from what would follow on from Habyarimanaâ€™s death in the plane crash. And unlike the Rwanda Patriotic Front who were in direct line of fire (as indeed it turned out with the massacres of 800,000 people in 90 days) the extreme Hutu could do precisely nothing to France. What do you suppose Discotheque answered?
That his country had no inkling of the storm ahead! I took this for an answer of guilt. What about all the hate-filled messages on the radio, and elsewhere, put out by Hutu extremists that all the Tutsi in Rwanda should this time be wiped out? He said they did not understand these. Because they didnâ€™t understand the language! What about the whole build-up over several months for the terrible carnage to follow? The French Ambassador said France knew nothing.
I told him this was to insult his intelligent and knowledgeable nation. Then, and now ten years on, to me the message was of an involved party trying to make light of its crime. I told him as much and we did not part as pals.
But the time has come again to ask our French friends this, If Habyarimanaâ€™s death had kept the English speaking Rwandese coming in from Uganda from ever taking over power in Rwanda, what effect would this have had on Franceâ€™s influence in the region; positive or negative? Whether you believed, as on balance I did, that this led to France taking the decisive move of blowing up Habyarimanaâ€™s plane, proof, for now, is another matter. But it is most (how do you say?) convenient, that coming to the 10th anniversary of the ruling RPF in Rwanda, France has chosen to leak its â€œinformationâ€ that it was Kagame, the RPF leader, who lit those flames a decade ago. You could go further and call it a most Gallic route to take!
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I said last week that I would look back again to my visit to Egypt. The first thing to say is that, speaking of the picturesque scene of the pyramids in the distance and the irrigated cultivation close to hand, I said, â€œThus it had been daily for nearly seven centuries.â€ Nobody raised a murmur, or even a sneering laugh.
Perhaps nobody reads this column! I should, of course have said seven millennia. It makes Egyptâ€™s Nile connection with us infinitely longer, and the more to be treasured. Interestingly enough, from the continuing cultivation from so long ago, to the feeding of water into the mighty industries on both sides of the river, Egypt has all along obtained greater treasure than possibly the rest of its Nile Basin partners combined! And this is no crime to be laid at Egyptâ€™s door, although admonishment for the rest of us is surely in order. Why on earth have we not used our share in more fitting fashion, and this when the Nile is born within two or three of our countries? But better very late than never; we shall. Fortunately Egypt itself, even with its 1929 Nile agreement, is keen to reach an equitable solution. (Coincidentally 1929 is the very year my grandfather Manyangenda bought a good deal of land in Bunyoro which is now the subject of â€œsome wordsâ€, but thatâ€™s another story! There too we seek a solution). Talk of the threat that Egypt considered even a drop less of the water agreed in â€™29 would mean war, has been dismissed by leading Egyptians, as it should. When I was in Cairo, where the subject came up often, I reminded those in charge of the negotiations that many might consider the 1929 agreement as being between Britain and Britain, then the overlord of Egypt and most of the present Nile Basin states. I also praised Egyptâ€™s stand on Suez in 1956,
it ignored any agreement and went to war for its rights.
All this was discussed in great good spirit, as it should and will.
What I saw of the sparkling holiday spot near the Suez Canal, of how Egypt is building up in the desert and of the wonderful Cairo museum will await another day.
Who Really Shot The Habyarimana Plane?