Will France ‘Kitchen diplomacy’ restore bruised relations with Rwanda?

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By Robert Mugabe


Kigali-Rwanda-French embassy in Rwanda has deployed soft power strategy to normalize a soar relation which has been going on for almost a decade.

Though both Kigali and Paris publically say everything is normal but the embassy in Kigali has been passive in running projects that prove their relevance in the country. Some analysts assert.

In preparations to mark annual Gorilla naming Ceremony commonly known as Kwita izina event run by Rwanda Development Board (RDB), this year, French embassy in Kigali is running a campaign to train 40 chefs in Hotels.

French embassy is also promising RDB to fly few Rwandan chefs to improve their skills by next year, according to the developing board. France also has started the services of lecturing French. At Kigali Public Library constructed by The Lottery Club, France sponsors what’s called “French Corner”

The forty Rwandan chefs graduated on Friday 21 August 2015 in publicized event. Apparently, this is seen by some analysts in Kigali as an entry point for France to re-start working relations in Rwanda.

Gatete Kevin Thierry, a blogger and human rights lawyer believes that apparently, the relations of Rwanda and France will never be normal. “France history in Africa is challenging. It’s because of French attitude not only in Rwanda, but in Algeria and other countries of West Africa.”

According to Gatete, It will be hard for France and Rwanda to hold relationships that are beyond ‘cordial’, like the ones the latter holds with its Anglo-Saxon counterparts; mainly because of the world views of both countries. No one actually believes in France’s reading of their own history but themselves. The history of France isn’t as glorious as they would have it. They would have people believe that they won both world wars; contributed to peace in the world and that they remain a world superpower.

They need that identity of success for their own society to remain united. De Gaule used to call that ‘L’Idee de la France’: The French Ideal: France isn’t necessarily a nation-state, but set of people’s bound by an Ideal of greatness – unmet greatness but the ideal nonetheless. Thay actually crucified their own General – Marechal Petin to preserve that utopia other world nations ignore France because it doesn’t pose any threat to them, be it economic or military.

Some scholars also agree with Gatete that now, of all ex-colonies, in the quest for liberation from the yoke of former masters, Rwanda under Kagame, just like Burkina-Faso under Sankara or Mali and Seku Toure, have been energetic in flagging up some of the significant inconsistencies inherent to the French story; namely Genocides: in Algeria, Rwanda and elsewhere, their quick losses in both wars and their faded influence in world affairs as evidenced by the slow death of their language. Apart from Kagame, the others African leaders were simply killed for this. France will never forgive Kagame – the feeling is mutual though, because I doubt he will ever forgive them of participating in the genocide of his people…

Analyst with Kigali Bar Association said; “Of course the embassy is trying to play safe. They are sensitive in what they do. That’s why they decided to work with RDB. Having said that; France has a global reputation in catering and culture of hospitality, to have their chefs here training ours, it’s an opportunity.”

Rwanda has repeatedly accused France in a complicity in planning 1994 Genocide, in which extremists from the majority Hutu group killed 800,000 minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus in 100 days of slaughter. Apparently, the world’s swiftest genocide in history.

There was already little love between the two countries when a French judge said in 2006 that Kagame should be investigated over the shooting down of the Rwandan presidential jet in 1994 – the event that sparked the genocide.

“Catering is not aggressive entry in restoring working relations at this time when France embassy needs to relevant in Rwandan society considering the bad blood between the leadership of the two countries. But, Rwanda government seems to be ambitious in making the country a world destination. Therefore, hospitality is a safe landing for the French.” An analyst with university of Rwanda said.

Rwanda government markets the country as probably most remarkable destination on the African Continent and best kept secret which hospitality remains vital in attracting foreign visitors.

“There should be no doubt about the continued commitment to building strong diplomatic, economic and cultural ties between the governments and people of Rwanda and France.” Foreign affairs Minister and government spokesperson insists.

A chronology of the stormy relations between France and Rwanda since its 1994 genocide still rooms.

Recent events; February 25, 2010: Then French president Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledges that France made mistakes during the genocide and pays homage to the victims, but stops short of apologising during a landmark visit to Kigali.

September 11: Kagame carries out his first official visit to France.

– 2014: First French genocide trial –

March 14: A French court sentences a former Rwandan army captain to 25 years in prison in the country’s first trial linked to the genocide.

– 2014: New Rwandan accusations –

April 7: The 20th anniversary of the genocide is commemorated in Kigali.

On the eve of the commemorations Kagame again accuses France of “participating” in the genocide, denouncing the “direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation for the genocide”.

– 2015: Paris declassifies documents –

April 8: France declassifies documents in the presidential archives relating to the genocide.


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