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A week of performative diplomacy over genocides raises far more questions than it answers
Far from drawing a line under Germany's genocide in Namibia between 1904-1908 and France's involvement in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, the declarations by Berlin and Paris this week have muddied the waters.
Namibia's President Hage Geingob welcomed Germany's apology for the killings of some 65,000 Herero and 10,000 Nama people who had fought against the colonial army as a 'step in the right direction'.
But Germany's statement and direct negotiations with Geingob's government rankled with Herero and Nama community leaders who said they were kept away from the discussions. The statement said, 'We should officially call these events what they were from today's perspective – a genocide.'
Chief Vekuii Rukoro, leader of the Herero nation, rejected the statement and the negotiations, dismissing the offer of $1.3bn as an insult. Distrust between the Herero and Nama peoples and Geingob's government in Windhoek will complicate the next diplomatic steps (AC Vol 60 No 24, Hage's hubris & Vol 61 No 24, SWAPO swept away).
In Rwanda, which President Emmanuel Macron visited on 27 May, the local politics and bilateral diplomacy are still more torturous. At the genocide memorial at Gisozi, Macron asked Rwandans 'who have passed through the darkness …for the gift of forgiveness' after saying that France had made errors of judgement that had 'appalling consequences'.
Acknowledging France's responsibility, Macron was trying to address the Rwandan people as a whole but stopped short of offering an apology or admitting the complicity of President François Mitterrand's government in the genocide.
Until now President Paul Kagame, who has been investigated by France's judicial authorities for his claimed involvement in the plot to shoot down President Juvénal Habyarimana's plane and trigger the genocide in 1994, has insisted on Paris's admission of complicity.
Now with the United States and several states in the European Union questioning the economic achievements of the Kagame's government in Kigali and the murder of some former officials turned dissenters, Kigali is adapting its diplomatic overtures (AC Vol 62 No 11, Cash for 'clearing houses').
Although French officials share the scepticism of some of their counterparts towards Kagame, they see rapprochement with Kagame as an important strategic move.
Kigali's despatch of troops to Central African Republic to fight alongside Russian mercenaries, together with Kagame's discussions on security with Mozambique's President Filipe Nyusi, underlined Rwanda's military importance in the region. These are both countries in which France has considerable interests (AC Vol 62 No 5, Nowhere to hide & Vol 61 No 18, Exile flies into a trap).
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