Rwanda’s Ties with Neighbours Still Strained by Genocide

Rwanda is straining to mend relations with some of its neighbours, and previously close partner states, twenty years after the genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Relations with the Democratic Republic of Congo are still tense over the presence of remnants of the genocide forces, which regrouped under the Democratic Forces for Liberation of Rwanda, FDRL. Another neighbour, Tanzania, is accused of aiding anti-Kigali forces with the objective of destabilising President Kagameís regime. Beyond the African continent, relations between Paris and Kigali are still shaky despite attempts to improve relations. Rwanda has in the past accused France of supporting genocide forces in the 1990s and its judiciary has refused to extradite or judge genocide perpetrators living on its soil.


Tanzanian-Rwandan relations deteriorated in 2013 after President Kikweteís called in 2013 on Rwanda to hold talks with the FDLR, a call which Kigali flatly rejected. Relations between the two states soured and Tanzania expelled thousands of Rwandans who had settled in the country for over 40 years and President Kagame was at one point quoted saying that he would attack his neighbour. Presidents Kagame and Kikwete later held talks in Kampala to cool down the political temperature but the tension only shifted from above to below the surface.
The Tanzanian leadership holds the view that Kigali should hold talks with the FDLR because the latter is made of young men who were either born after 1994 or were very young during the genocide ìIf there are genocidaires, they should be pursued, arrested, tried and convicted. †But the majority are people who have the full rights to participate in the politics of their countryî, afroamerica website quoted Tanzanian Foreign Minister,Bernard Membe saying in July 2013.

However, this premise has been rejected by Rwandan officials and the public saying that the FDRL, which is led by leaders with blood on their hands and is made of sons of perpetrators of the genocide, still carries the genocide ideology. ìWho currently makes up the FDLR is not what matters today. What matters is their founding genocidal ideology which still stands todayì a Rwandan who reacted to the Tanzanian position commented.


According to the Rwandan media, Tanzania has recently facilitated a meeting of Rwandan opposition figures including the former Rwandan Prime Minister FaustinTwagiramungu and leaders of various opposition parties for the purpose of uniting the opposition, an accusation Tanzania denies. ìThe former Prime Minister of Rwanda FaustinTwagiramungu was also not in Tanzania on any or the same mission and did not attend the meeting with representatives of RNC (Rwanda National Congress)and FDLR as no meeting of such nature took place in Dar es Salaam or anywhere in Tanzaniaî, a statement from the Tanzanian embassy in Kigali said.

Whitewashing genocide group
Rwandans who spoke on the issue say the Tanzanian meetings aim at whitewashing the FDLR, make it acceptable internationally and force Rwanda to hold talks with them. ìIf this is not enough to push Rwanda into talks, there is a back-up position ñ use of force. This second phase of the strategy is already under wayî, an article posted on a Rwandan website said.
On 1 March 2014, Twagiramunguís Rwanda Dream Initiative party formed a coalition in Belgium with the FDLR, the Social Party and the Rwandan Democratic Union, which they called the Coalition of Political Parties for Change. The coalitionís main objective is to demand talks with the Rwandan government on the return of refugees with the help of the international community. However, analysts say the coalitionís target will remain an uphill task as long as the FDLR still carries the label of a genocide organisation, thus Twagiramunguís advice that the organisation changes its name and get rid of compromised members.


In the eyes of Rwanda, Tanzania is working with DRCongo in the efforts to whitewash the FDLR instead of disarming them as promised when the UN Special Brigade was created and their ultimate objective is to attack Rwanda. After the Rwandan backed M23 rebels defeat, UN troops and the DRC army shifted their attention to the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda rebels leaving Rwanda to question the logic behind their reluctance to disarm the Rwandan rebels.

The tension between Tanzania on one side, and Rwanda and Uganda, on the other has shifted to the East African Community where Kenya has joined Rwanda and Uganda in the Coalition of the Willing, which has been implementing joint projects without involving Burundi and Tanzania. Burundi is today part of the Tanzania-DRC axis. Ties between Kinshasa and Kigali have since the 1994 genocide experienced ups and downs, sometimes the two countries cooperating to disarm the FDLR and other times settling their differences with weapons. Their relations have never been restored to normalcy. The Rwandan media alleges that the FDLR that Kigali calls genocidal forces have been co-opted into the Congolese national arm and as such cannot be disarmed by allies. Many in Kigali believe Tanzania may use the Congolese territory to provoke Rwanda. The tension between the DRC and Rwanda and Uganda forced the DRC to join and rely on the Southern African Development Community to safeguard its territorial integrity. Currently, Tanzania, Malawi and South Africa make up the UN special brigade which defeated the M23. In the past, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Angola came to the rescue of the DRC when it was battling rebels in the east.

Relations with France still below pre-genocide era
Outside the African continent, relations between Rwanda and France have been shaped by the 1994 genocide. France which has been accused by Rwanda of aiding genocide forces has not regained the influential position it held in pre-genocide Rwanda. The Rwandan leadership accuses Paris of impeding efforts to try suspected genocide perpetrators living on its territory.

†However, there was a slight improvement during the presidency of Sarcozy. In the meantime, Rwanda adopted English as an official language and joined the Commonwealth. Although France has started a trial of a Rwandan who was accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide, Pascal Simbikangwa, it has failed to extradite any to Rwanda and refused to try others, leading to accusations that it is shielding them from justice. The French Court of Cassation also refused to extradite Claude Muhayimana and Innocent Musabyimana two Rwandans accused of genocide crimes in Rwanda.

France is yet to follow in Germany’s or Belgium’s footsteps and convict or extradite genocide perpetrators on its territory. In February a German court sentenced an ex-Rwandan mayor to a 14-year jail term over crimes he committed in the 1994 genocide.



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