Monday, July 19, 2010

No Handshake For Paul Kagame

José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero ducked out of a potentially embarrassing meeting last week. Paul Kagame, the Rwandan president, was in Madrid and a proposed meeting with the Spanish prime minister was cancelled. Kagame has been accused by a judge in Spain of involvement in the death of some Spanish missionaries, but his position as head of state gives him immunity. He has been in Madrid to participate in meetings concerning the millennium development goals, which on current progress don't stand much chance of being achieved before the next millennium.

The treatment of the Rwandan government that emerged from the 1994 genocide has always been strange. Sometimes the aftermath of a genocide brings nothing but more suffering for the survivors. Whilst many of the leaders responsible for the killings have been free for years to stroll happily around Paris or Brussels, the Rwandan government has always been put under pressure. The French, whose sorry role in enabling the main perpetrators of the killings to leave the country is shameful enough, sought for years after to isolate the new government. They seemed more offended at the idea of an African country leaving the francophone sphere of influence than they were by the piles of corpses of those who were hacked to death with machetes.

Many terrible things have happened in the Congo in recent years, and countries like Uganda and Rwanda have played their part in making that situation worse for their own interests; along with several other nations. But the root cause of Rwanda's involvement in that conflict should not be forgotten. The perpetrators of the genocide were able to leave Rwanda, and establish themselves just across the border where they were fed and housed by the international community as heavily armed "refugees". Any government coming to power in the aftermath of the killing of around 800,000 people and faced with having the perpetrators still able to launch further attacks could justfiably claim to be acting in self defence by seeking to remove that threat. It's a situation reminiscent in some ways of the Khmer Rouge being able to survive comfortably for years after they were deposed from power, with the major Western powers so horrified by what had happened that they ensured that Cambodia was still represented by the Khmer Rouge in the UN.

Kagame is an elected leader of a country that has passed through an awful trauma and been treated quite badly for having suffered that trauma. It's true he's no angel, and there are some disturbing things going on in the country. But how does Kagame compare with Equatorial Guinea's dictator Teodoro Obiang? The latter gets high level Spanish diplomatic missions visiting, and although he hasn't had his handshake yet with Zapatero, I'm sure that Repsol are doing whatever they can to put that particular show on the road.

No comments: