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Press Watchdog Blasts Blocking of French Radio Broadcasting in Rwanda


The international press watchdog Reporters Without Borders Tuesday called on the Rwandan government to reverse its decision to prohibit a French radio station from broadcasting in the country. The blocking of the broadcasting is part of the Rwandan government's move to cut ties with France following arrest warrants a French judge issued against top aides alleged to have assassinated the former presidents of Rwanda and Burundi. Cathy Majtenyi reports for VOA from Nairobi.

The head of Reporters Without Borders' Africa desk, Leonard Vincent, tells VOA his organization is writing to Rwandan President Paul Kagame to protest Monday's order to stop Radio France International, or RFI, from broadcasting in Rwanda.

"We're going to try to find a good argument to make him understand that he has taken the wrong decision and that his anger is going too far," he explained. "We're not going into the debate on the genocide. Today, it is not political radio - it is great and recognized international radio, and it shouldn't be the victim of the crisis between Rwanda and France."

In addition to the radio station, the Rwandan government also closed French schools and other institutions. The French ambassador left Rwanda on Saturday, while remaining French officials and staff were gone by Monday night.

Rwanda Friday recalled its ambassador to France and cut ties with the European country over arrest issues that French Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere issued the week before.

In an earlier interview with VOA, Minister of Foreign Affairs Charles Murigande said he thinks France was "deeply involved" in the genocide, and it is guilt and a desire for power that is behind the warrants.

"The aim of France is to overthrow our government and bring back to power those who committed genocide because they were their allies," he said.

The arrest warrants charge nine presidential aides with murder and being an accessory to murder in the April 1994 downing of an airplane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira.

That incident was to spark 100 days of bloodshed in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Rwanda has vehemently denied the allegations, accusing France of being deeply involved in the genocide and issuing the warrants out of a sense of guilt, desire for power over Rwanda, and jealousy at Rwanda's progress.

Meanwhile, French Judge Bruguiere maintains that only the Rwandan Patriotic Front, headed by then General Kagame, had missiles capable of shooting down the airplane to wrest power from the government in office.