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Rwanda opposition to protest at Kagame visit to France

media Paul Kagame REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly

Two exiled Rwandan opposition parties say they will demonstrate against President Paul Kagame’s visit to France on 12-13 September. They accuse him of sending death squads to hunt down opponents abroad.

In a sign of improving relations between Paris and Kigali, President Nicolas Sarkozy has invited Kagame to come to Paris next month, following his own ground-breaking trip Rwanda in February 2010.

But the United Democratic Forces (UDF) and the Rwanda National Congress (RNC), neither of which is recognised inside the country, say they will mobilise exiles in France and Belgium for a protest outside the headquarters of the French bosses’ union, Medef, on 13 September.

They hope to convince entrepreneurs not to do business with Rwanda while it is ruled by Kagame, whom they accuse of sending death squads to hunt down refugees and opponent abroad.

The UDF is led by a Hutu, Victoire Ingabaire, who has been in prison in Rwanda since October 2010 on terror charges. 

The RNC was set up by former Kagame allies, including former chief of staff General Faustin Kayumba Nyamwasa, who lives in South Africa where he escaped an assassination attempt last year.

Kagame’s visit will be the first by a Rwandan head of state since the 1994 genocide, which the UN says cost 800,000 lives.

His Rwandan Popular Front accused France of complicity with the regime of Juvenal Habyaramina, whose death sparked the massacres.

The two countries broke off relations in 2006, only reestablishing them in 2009.

A 2008 Rwandan report repeated the complicity charges, naming Alain Juppé, who was foreign affairs minister at the time, and other French politicians and top soldiers as responsible for the policy.

Juppé, who is foreign minister again, has said that he will not shake Kagame’s hand or go to Rwanda until the report has been withdrawn.

President Nicolas Sarkozy visited Rwanda in 2010. He declared that France had suffered from “a form of blindness” over the “genocidal dimension” of the Habyaramina regime.

A team of French gendarmes arrived in Rwanda this week in connection with an investigation into genocide charges against expatriates living in France, Rwandan officials said Thursday.

Kigali has issued arrest warrants for about 15 people living in France, the officials said. They include Juvnal Habyarimana’s widow Agathe.

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