On May 26-27, 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron visited Rwanda. During the visit, Emmanuel Macron said that France bore overwhelming responsibilities in 1990-1994 Rwandan civil war. Falling short of fully admitting responsiblities, questions were raised on why the sudden visit to Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame, after more than 25 years of overt diplomatic and economic conflicts. Hence a lingering question remained: why the sudden drive to improve the diplomatic relations after so many years of conflict? AfroAmerica Network sources close to the Rwandan and Mozambican governments have provided some information on the reason behind the rapprochement: the on-going civil war in Mozambique.
Emmanuel Macron's visit followed a France-Africa Economic Summit and International Conference on Sudan in Paris, France, attended by African heads of state, including Rwandan dictator General Paul Kagame. In preparation for the summit, Rwanda and France have been working to renew diplomatic ties, after years of diplomatic conflicts, with the governments of the two countries blaming each other for the 1990s Rwandan ethnic massacres, genocides, and civil wars.
According to the sources in Rwanda and Mozambique, the on-going civil war following a rebellion by an alleged islamic group in Mozambique is the main reason of the rapprochement between Emmanuel Macron and Paul Kagame.
Civil War, Mineral and Oil Riches, and Political Infighting in Mozambique
The country of Mozambique has been ravaged by an on-going civil war since 2017. The civil war has intensified in the last years in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province. According to media and other reports, attacks, massive war crimes, and property destruction have become wide reaching. The economy of the country has been crippled. So far, there is no clear information, but only conflicting speculations on the origins, the motives, the drives and the goals of the insurgents. What is sure is that the insurgency has targeted the Mozambique region of Cabo Delgado, especially in Afungi. The region is rich in oil, gas and minerals.
The riches in Mozambique Cabo Delgado province have attracted many foreign investors and multinationals. One known major project is the Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) owned by French multinationals. It is believed that the LNG is the largest French foreign investment in Africa, valued at US$20 billion. The project is owned by the French Total, a multinational oil and energy conglomerate.
Total has suspended its operations in Mozambique after the site of the LNG project at Afungi was repeatedly attacked by the Islamic State rebels in late 2020 and early 2021, especially in March 2021.
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France - Rwanda Relations: A sine qua non of Peace Keeping Forces in Mozambique
According to sources in Mozambique, Mozambique Filipe Jacinto Nyusi, the current President of Mozambique since 2015 and the leader of FRELIMO, and state officials held a meeting with Total top Management. The Mozambique leaders asked Total Management to approach Emmanuel Macron, and ask for sending French troops as peace keepers in Mozambique, with a focus on Cabo Delgado province. However, given bad past experiences and the current challenging involvement in civil wars, coups, and rebellions in West Africa, the French government allegedly refused to send troops into Mozambique. The French political and military leaders raised fears of being caught in the infighting and a struggle within the national elite for the control of Cabo Delgado’s oil, gas and mineral riches and the potential conflict with RENAMO, the opposition party.
The French leaders rather proposed to find peace keeping forces, similar to those operating in South Sudan, Central African Republic, Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and elsewhere in Africa.
However, in different meetings, it was pointed out that only two peace keeping operations have not derailed yet, and at least have made sure the rebels do not reach their targets: South Sudan and Central African Republic. The common element in the two areas is the origin of the main peace keeping forces. In both areas the large component of the soldiers making the peace forces were dispatched by Paul Kagame, the current Rwandan dictator.
Hence the plan was adopted as follows: Mozambique President will approach the Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame to request that he sends troops into Mozambique as peace keepers. France will help in convincing Paul Kagame and would provide enough funds for these operations.
After the plan was cooked, the intense political and diplomatic actions were set in motion. The main step was to appease Rwandan Paul Kagame and improve the relations between French and Rwandan governments, that have been at their worst since 1994.
Emmanuel Macron and Paul Kagame Plan for Mozambique
First, a controversial report, commissioned by French President Emmanuel Macron and written by controversial historians, on the 1994 Rwandan civil war was published in March 2021. The report said that the French government bore “overwhelming responsibilities” for the genocide, as it remained allied with the “racist, corrupt and violent” Hutu-led government even as the leadership prepared to slaughter the Tutsis. The report fell short of accusing the French government of complicity in the Rwandan genocide.
Rwandan dictator Paul Kagame appeared pleased by the French report but was not enthusiastic, pointing to the report as a rather first step. He said about the French report:
“We welcome this report because it marks an important step toward a common understanding of what took place…It shows the desire even for leaders in France to move forward with a good understanding of what happened.”
In April 2021, the Rwandan government issued its own report, commissioned by The Rwandan government in 2017 and generated by a US based Washington law firm Levy Firestone Muse, echoing the findings of the French Report. France played a “significant” role in “enabling a foreseeable genocide” in Rwanda. In fact the report, apparently to raise the bar for the on-going negotiations on Mozambique peace keeping, bluntly condemned the French government. “French officials armed, advised, trained, equipped, and protected the Rwandan government, heedless of the Habyarimana regime’s commitment to the dehumanization and, ultimately, the destruction and death of Tutsi in Rwanda,” the Rwandan government commissionned report said.
While the reports were being discussed, Emmanuel Macron invited Paul Kagame to a Paris meeting on Africa in May 2021 (see here France-Africa Summit: Rwandan Paul Kagame warns the United States and The European Union against Giving him Lessons on Justice and Fairness and Rejects UN Mapping Report)
Meanwhile, Mozambique President Felipe Nyusi had a sudden and short visit to Rwanda on April 28, 2021.
Then, on May 26-27, 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron went on a symbolic visit to Rwanda. He recited that France had "a role, a history and a political responsibility" towards Rwanda. But , once again, he avoided any official apology, only staying on the terms of setting a stage for the on-going political negotiations on the peace keeping forces in Mozambique.
After Rwanda, Emmanuel Macron headed south: to South Africa, the neighboring country of Mozambique, to the South.
While in South Africa, Emmanuel Macron was now ready to announce the results on the negotiations with Paul Kagame. He said that France is ready to assist neighboring Mozambique to battle an extremist insurgency, stating:
“We are well aware that Mozambique is currently dealing with jihadi groups which are threatening the security of the region, particularly in Cabo Delgado. We are of course monitoring the situation with a great deal of concern,.”
What is next: Are Rwandan troops heading to Mozambique and when?
AfroAmerica Network is still following the story.
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