Who is afraid of the Franco-Rwanda Rapprochement?

By Charles Mateeka

On May 23 this year, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron stood together at the Élysée in a joint press conference after hours of private discussions behind closed doors. Kagame was in France in his capacity as both chairperson of the African Union and as President of Rwanda.

The two countries have had frosty relations for more than two decades now, and Macron, more than his predecessors, appears prepared to work with his counterpart to normalize relations.

Bringing clarity to what exactly transpired in 1994 during the genocide in Rwanda, and who did what, has remained an issue of contention and a cause of the rift between the two countries. Macron says he is willing to talk about it, despite the sensitivities involved that were behind his predecessors’ decisions to avoid doing anything to resolve the rift. The main obstacle to this rapprochement are the French political and military elite who were actors in the key events under scrutiny and would prefer the subject to be buried altogether.

While ordinary Rwandan and French people have much to gain from détente, this French elite perceives that it has most to lose from a return to normal relations and has tried to undermine any efforts at reconciliation between the two countries, including using diplomatic and intelligence tools to try to cause regime change in Kigali in the hope that a post-Kagame administration would be less insistent on holding them accountable.

This revanchist elite sees Macron’s attitude towards Rwanda as offensive to their legacy, particularly viewing his endorsement of Rwanda’s foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo to lead La Francophonie as a slap in the face. It suggests to them that the time for reckoning with their past could be near.

It is within this context of a panic fit that they have been planting propaganda stories against Rwanda. For instance, an article in today’s Le Monde returned to one of their favourite themes of throwing doubts about the Kagame-Macron détente, “ La francophonie, outil de rapprochement entre la France et le Rwanda, ” which they try to disguise as a concern for human rights.

Days earlier, an online newspaper owned and operated by the DGSE (France’s external intelligence agency) published a sensational story titled, “ Ouganda: comment la France aide les reinsegnements Ougandais… ” La Lettre de L’Ocean Indien makes preposterous claims that Burundian rebels in the pay of Rwanda had planned to shoot down the plane carrying President Museveni to Bujumbura, only to be averted by French intelligence!

No evidence whatsoever is provided.

This lack of any evidence, however, doesn’t stop what appears like coordinated forces hostile to Rwanda from spreading the baseless propaganda. David Himbara of the Rwanda National Congress (RNC) that has declared war against Rwanda; Judi Rever, whose propaganda is veiled in the garb of journalism, and of course the propaganda trolls of Uganda’s Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI), led by Sarah Kagingo who goes by the threadbare pseudonym of Gareth Ofungi and the online news website Chimp Reports.

One would have thought that French intelligence, even when maliciously-intentioned, would be more professional than be party to the release of such a pile of implausible shit! Pardon my French. And, in the field of journalism itself, there surely couldn’t be any more garbage than this ‘Museveni assassination plot.”

In most civilized places, rubbish ends up in the trash-bin. This is why manufacturing of legends and intensifying propaganda is unlikely to yield the results their authors are hoping for, because there is no basis for it.

It’s unfortunate that Museveni persists in a misguided and ultimately failing effort to mobilise Rwanda’s enemies against her neighbour to the south. Museveni’s efforts have no legitimate cause whatsoever, and stand no chance against a unified and strong country that has long steered away from the kinds of divisions and hatreds those who dream up such projects in Kampala think they are sowing, either by working with dissidents or by harassing Rwandans of all walks of life in Uganda.

True to her usual approach, Rwanda will not be provoked by propaganda or the harassment of its nationals. It will remain cool-headed even with the knowledge of the ongoing hate campaign against it and continue to ignore the rubbish coming from Uganda’s intelligence circles.

This remedy will work because Rwanda has outgrown the threats that its people can ever be divided again. But it’s difficult to ignore that something is terribly wrong in Uganda’s leadership, if the only solution they seem to envisage to their domestic problems is to peddle lies against Rwanda’s leadership.

Those coordinating these forces to spread false rumours with which they hope to destabilise Rwanda need to remember that France’s external intelligence has for the past two decades been at the forefront of fighting a propaganda war on behalf of Rwanda’s enemies, the FDLR and dissidents, with zero results to show for it. They seriously over-estimate their own capacities and under-estimate Rwandan strength to persevere against such underhand efforts.