Whatever one may think of French foreign policy and especially their occasional adventures in Africa, which must surely undermine the frequent Gallic attempts to claim the moral high ground in this arena, the latest claims by the Rwandan government that France played an active role in the genocide during the early 1990’s, are troubling, not least because of the wider implications.
There is, of course, a potential for schadenfreude when names such as that of the oleaginous ex French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin and former President, François Mitterrand, neither of whom could lay claim to being friends of Britain, are in the frame. However, such frivolous, if understandable, instincts should not obscure the dishonest and dangerous undercurrents at play here or the potential for mischief which this involves.
There will be many, including those at the incurably politically correct end of the European politics, who will delight at the opportunity to hold a European power accountable for an African genocide. Particularly of one which, in terms of the speed at which the victims were butchered over a short space of time, exceeded the ferocity of even the holocaust.
When such people find an allegation which they want to believe, that allegation invariably grows legs and continues to run even if the original claims are disproved.
Furthermore, can we doubt that, were French involvement to be proven albeit if only to a minor extent, every commentator with a modem will work tirelessly to exaggerate French guilt in the public mind whilst minimising the culpability of those who actually wielded the machetes?.
Although claims that France was aware of the preparation for genocide are unlikely to be proven and the alleged involvement of French troops in the actual killing lacks anything approaching credibility, these opportunist accusations gain credence beyond their true worth because they have been cynically tacked on to the main basis of the claims against the French, which is that they trained the Hutu troops who were the main perpetrators of the 1994 genocide.
Of course, the truth is not as simple as that, prior to 1994 the Hutu were effectively the government of Rwanda, and the Hutu troops whom the French trained were the Rwandan army of the day. In much of Africa, political power often rests with the tribe which is in the ascendant, and that was very much the case in Rwanda, where the civil war was in simplistic terms the result of rivalry between a largely Hutu government and an increasingly ambitious Tutsi tribe, who had previously attempted to overthrow the Government in 1990 in the guise of the Rwandan Patriotic Front.
The tribal system is a reality which governments across the world have to accept when dealing with Africa, however much they might officially seek to distance themselves from it.
On the other side of East Africa, the British army have been training Kenyan troops for many years, which, given the reality of Kenyan politics means that we have been training a Kikuyu dominated army, which as recent events on the Mount Elgon region of Western Kenya, not to mention the outbreak of tribal violence earlier this year demonstrated, can have some problematic outcomes.
Kenya is in the same region of Africa as Rwanda, similar ethnic tensions exist there and have exploded into violence on a number of occasions over the years. The Mau Mau uprising of 1950’s is still sold as resistance to white rule, but largely descended into tribal violence, and even at a conservative estimate the Mau Mau murdered almost 100 Africans for every white person they killed.
Since independence in 1964 ethnic tensions, although bubbling under the surface, were largely kept under control in what was until recently viewed as a rare African success story. However, outbreaks of violence have occurred over the years, and, as we all know, at the beginning of this year, following almost certainly rigged elections, the country exploded into tribal violence resulting in the deaths of some 1,500 and the displacement of around 6000.000 people. As the violence escalated the world held its collective breath fearing that we were witnessing another Rwanda.
It didn’t happen then, but it came close and, sadly, the factors which could have caused all out civil war are still in place and still as potent.
If Kenya 2008 had turned into another Rwanda 1994, or if the still simmering ethnic tensions explode again next week, next month or next year, but this time escalates into genocide, what will be Britain’s position, and, indeed, what will Britain be blamed for?
In fourteen years time will fingers be pointed at us, will the world be reminded that our soldiers trained Kikuyu soldiers and that our government supported a Kikuyu dominated government? Those facts are certainly true on face value, but how would they be interpreted years later following the sort of bloodbath we saw in Rwanda?.
Our troops in Kenya have already been confronted with ludicrous and palpably trumped up charges, which the media has pretended to take seriously out of malice and political correctness, do you think they, or our many enemies at home and abroad would pretend to treat claims of genocide any less seriously?
Our continued activities in Africa are overwhelmingly well intentioned and we seek the best for the people of our ex-colonies, but, as France is the most recent European government to discover, they put us at significant risk.
Britain no longer rules in Africa, we can not control the outcomes, and as life expectancy in places like Kenya plummet, those who remember us with affection are rapidly shrinking in number, to be replaced by generations who know nothing of white rule, except what they have learnt from the radical and politically correct schooling of our age. As such, we are resented and at risk from any number of wild allegations, which those who make them, and much of the world will want to believe, however incredible they may be.
Africa is a land of staggering beauty and unfulfilled promise, for all her horrors, she beguiles on sight and most of those whom she has touched will love her to their graves, yet she is a poison fruit, and one which becomes more lethal by the day.
A century and a half of comparatively benign rule and relative prosperity were forever lost forty years ago in an ill begotten, and premature, wind of change. The chance of a successful future was sacrificed for the sake of ideology and expediency, as a result the speed of Africa's decline is now so rapid that it almost certainly can not be reversed. Soon the dark continent will be as dangerous a place for a European to set foot as it was when the first brave explorers ventured there three or four hundred years ago, it is already that dangerous for many of its own people.
Africa’s fate now seems inevitable, all that remains is the question of who will take the blame. There will be many seeking culprits from outside of Africa because it is not yet acceptable to blame those within. Those counties, such as Britain and France who still feel they have a role to play in Africa, should play that role with caution lest they are held accountable for what Africa now does to herself.