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Rwandan Capital Protests Extradition of Top Official to France


Rwanda's capital was closed for business as the city turned out for mass demonstrations against the extradition of a top Rwandan official to France. Thomas Rippe reports for VOA from Kigali.

Much of Kigali was unusually quiet today. Stores were shut and schools and businesses were closed.

But around the German embassy, near the center of town, tens of thousands of people gathered to protest the extradition of Rose Kabuye from Germany to France.

There is a deep anger among the protesters.

Kabuye was arrested last week in Germany on a 2006 French indictment that alleges she was involved in the 1994 downing of a plane that killed then-Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana. His death sparked the genocide that killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Germany recently released the secretary general of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda Callixte Mbarushimana. Many of those responsible for the 1994 genocide are FDLR members.

Rwandans like Jeff Madali cannot understand why Germany would release Mbarushimana and then arrest Kabuye, the protocol chief for Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

"But now if you look at a country like Germany arresting Rose," he said. "Germany is a place where people who committed genocide are staying comfortably. They are being fed. They have houses and cars. They are living as diplomats. But Rose, who is on diplomatic duty, is being arrested for nothing at all. It is so shaming."

Rwanda severed diplomatic relations with France in 2006, after a French judge issued indictments against several top Rwandan officials in connection with the genocide. There is no French embassy in Kigali for the Rwandans to direct their anger towards.

Jean-Bosco Rutegengwa is still angry with France for supporting the previous government against the Rwandan Patriotic Front, now Rwanda's ruling party.

"We are fighting against the French from 1990 when France supported the genocide peoples, the killers," he said. "Now is another kind of war the French are bringing to our country. We know, we know."

In August, Rwanda issued a report detailing French involvement in the genocide, and has raised the possibility of indicting French military and political officials including former President Francois Mitterand. But Information Minister Louise Mushikiwabo says it is important not to get the impression that Rwanda and France are engaged in a tit-for-tat.

"Rwanda has something to accuse France of," she said. "France has nothing to accuse Rwanda of. France was involved on the side of genocide planners. France participated in the genocide in this country."

For all the anger and marching in the streets some still see hope and a way forward. Rwanda Foreign Affairs Minister Rosemary Museminali says even now there is dialogue between the countries.

"Rwanda has made it clear that we leave our doors open for talking," she said. "And then we hope that through that we will be able to clear the air. But based on principles, based on mutual respect, based on working together. Not as subservients and masters, but as people working in an equal combination. And this is what we demand, not only of France, but of Germany and of the world."

Officials like Minister Museminali and protesters like Jeff Madali hope the situation can serve as a starting point for greater dialogue between Africa and Europe.