American domination - the only domination from which one never recovers.
I mean from which one never recovers unscarred.
Aimé Césaire, Discouse on colonialism
France our most inveterate enemy.
Benjamin Franklin, 1747
One Friday November evening 1996, the 8th to be exact, Jean and Aline
Chrétien were quietly watching the CNN news at their Lake Harrington cottage
just north of Ottawa. The non-stop images of people suffering near Goma in
Eastern Zaire were so stirring that the Prime Minister decided Canada should
mobilize and lead a multinational force to protect Rwandan refugees whose
camps were being mercilessly bombed.
Instead of taking a well deserved prime ministerial rest, the PM first
bounced the idea off his closest advisors, his wife Aline and his nephew
Raymond Chrétien, who was then Canadas Ambassador to Washington and who had
just been appointed as the special UN envoy to the African Great Lakes
region. He then picked up the phone to build up a good head of steam among
other middle powers like Canada before approaching Washington. He lined up
the presidents of Brazil and Argentina who agreed to participate in the
planned Canadian-led force. With them on side, Jean Chrétien was ready to
call Clinton and persuade him to support the Canadian initiative. The weeks
work ended happily with a Security Council resolution on Thursday November
14 establishing a multinational force with 10 000 troops that would be led
by the Canadian General Maurice Baril. This force to be immediately deployed
was to enable the 1,300,000 Rwandan refugees to return home.
Surprise! The very next day, with the cameras of the world well focussed,
thousands of Rwandan refugees started crossing the border from the Congo
into Rwanda. Then two weeks later, another huge group returned from
Tanzania. On December 12, the UN special envoy Raymond Chrétien informed the
Security Council that it was no longer necessary to deploy the multinational
force since the refugee problem was being settled by itself. As soon as the
Security Council resolution was adopted, Kigali activate the rebels in
Eastern Zaire who then attacked the refugee camps. The militias fled thereby
liberating the refugees to go home, Raymond Chrétien told the United
Nations press corps. At the very same time, General Maurice Baril, who
headed the multinational force, declared: I must now recommend that my
government terminate the mission.
Mission accomplished! Applause please!
That is how the right and proper tale would have it, but what really
General Baril was a damned liar when he said there was no longer a refugee
problem in the Congo and that the troops in the multinational force could go
home, a humanitarian worker with a major NGO told me. Hes a murderer!
The Montreal-based humanitarian worker who asked not to be named, was
working in Kigali and Goma during this period and was posted at the
Rwanda-Congo border when the refugees were forced to return to Rwanda. When
the city of Goma fell, the troops divided the refugee camp in two, he
added. Some 300,000 or 400,000 refugees fled toward the forests to the
west, whereas between 250,000 and 300,000 refugees headed towards Rwanda.
Everybody knew that it happened that way. Satellite photos showed it
clearly. Those photos were sent to all humanitarian groups and to General
Baril. He had the same photos we had.
Another eyewitness described the events in exactly the same way. The French
daily Libération published his description on March 10, 1997. Can we
believe General Baril when he declared in mid-December that there were no
refugees left in Zaire. After all he had spent only half a day on the road
to Masisi in the vehicle of a rebel Tutsi army officer and had not seen any
refugees. That declaration which officially terminated the multinational
force caused the death of thousands of refugees. Theres no way he could be
unaware of their presence.
Six years later, Ambassador Raymond Chrétien, interviewed at the Canadian
Embassy in Paris, admits that the refugee problem in the Congo only appeared
to be settled when his mandate ended in December 1996.
A bit of the problem was settled. It was the tip of the humanitarian
iceberg, but a huge part of the problem was not solved. Many refugees headed
for the forest and have probably been killed since then. A million people
dead! Not much has been said about that. But there was an international
consensus that 500,000 refugees returned to Rwanda. After that, there was no
political will to deploy the multinational force.
Though Raymond Chrétien could be congratulated for being so honest about the
failure of the mission, it is much too little and much too late. Moreover
his excuse about a so-called international consensus does not hold water,
because that so-called consensus was totally fabricated.
Léon Kengo Wa Dondo was Prime Minister of Zaire between 1994 and 1997.
According to him, Zaires 1995 census established that there were 1,300,000
Rwandan refugees in Zaire. Only a very small number of refugees returned to
Rwanda in November 1996. The idea of taking advantage of the presence in
Zaire of Rwandan refugees accused of genocide to justify military
intervention by Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda and then to transform the
invasion into what appeared to be a civil war in Zaire was well planned in
According to eyewitnesses, all the pieces were in place to film the
refugees return and broadcast it around the world - the refugees return
should more accurately be called refoulement or forced repatriation.
Heres the spin that was planned. The refugees were being freed from the
yoke of the genocidal Hutu militias and returning happily to their homes in
Forced repatriation is specifically prohibited by the 1951 Geneva Convention
on refugees. All countries involved in the November 1996 operation signed
> 136 But who really cares about the rule of law anyway?
Reporters were lined up at the Rwanda-Zaire border well before the refugees
were forced to return. Until then they had very little freedom of movement -
reporters had been prevented from going near Goma when that city was taken a
few weeks earlier - but now they were given full access to observe and film
the whole operation. Their total freedom to cover the operation contrasted
with the way they were corralled like cattle before the operation, and after
it was over. Obviously, we used the media, recalled Raymond Chrétien in
reference to his 1996 United Nations mission to Central Africa.
CNNs Christiane Amanpour was particularly well informed about the
operation before it began, observed the humanitarian worker who was at the
border. She obviously had access to privileged information. She was not
interested in any of the less glamorous aspects of the operation. Her work
was frankly dishonest. He pointed out cases of refugees being tortured by
the RPF army and the fact that the RPF formally prohibited anybody from
providing water to refugees for the first twenty-five kilometres on the
Rwandan side of the border. The goal was to dehydrate and eliminate all
refugees who had cholera.
It is not surprising that the biased behaviour of CNNs Christiane Amanpour
was noticeable to people present. Shortly after the events took place, Ms
Amanpour married Jamie Rubin, Madeleine Albrights mover and shaker and
press attaché. Jamie Rubin is the man who leaked the so-called genocide fax
to his brother-in-law Philip Gourevitch. The promoters of the right and
proper tale inevitably refer to the very sinister akazu or little house
to describe the Habyarimana family and entourage who are supposedly
responsible for everything that happened in Rwanda. It would seem however
that the United States can still teach the akazus of the world a few
things, namely how to stage events and not be seen thanks to family ties.
At the very moment the tragic refugee operation was underway, French
journalist Jean Daniel was meeting the assistant Secretary of State, John
Kornblum, in his Washington office. His account of that meeting is
France? We want to get along with France. Chirac? A man of good will. We
like him. But: (1) no question of keeping Boutros-Ghali; (2) no question of
keeping Mobutu in power
Lets get together again in six months time.
Well see if I am mistaken. Watch out for Africa: France has it all wrong.
The strong man is in Uganda, not in Kinshasa.
In his own words, Jean Daniel left that meeting dumbfounded by the cynical
detailing of events to come, and the arrogance of the vocabulary used.
The United States offensive against France in French-speaking Africa
underlies the destruction of refugee camps in eastern Zaire and explains why
the ephemeral Canadian-led multinational force that was supposed to protect
the refugees was sent home so soon.
Who bombed the Sake and Mugunga refugee camps near Goma? asks former Prime
Minister Kengo Wa Dondo, even though he leaves little doubt that he thinks
the United States was directly implicated. Eyewitness accounts of the taking
of the city of Goma on November 1, 1996, emphasize the speed of the
operation which relied on heavy military materiel, the simultaneous attacks
from different points and rockets launched from gunboats on Lake Kivu. Zaire
army troops panicked. Another witness tells of the arrival of heavy American
cargo planes in Kigali every night during the last two weeks of October
1996. The arms were apparently being delivered to the war in eastern Zaire.
Many sources point to elite US troops, including African Americans, and US
weapons in eastern Zaire. According to the French daily Le Monde, French
intelligence sources claim that American soldiers were secretly buried in
that area of Zaire.
Marie Béatrice Umutesi wrote a moving account of her life as a refugee,
first in Rwanda and then in Zaire, in a book eloquently titled Fuir ou
mourir au Zaïre (To flee or to die in Zaire). She clearly shows that the
operation was coordinated and that the return was illegally forced upon the
refugees. At the end of October 1996, conditions in the huge Mugunga refugee
camp had become unliveable. The population had tripled and the RPF army
allied with Zaire rebels were closing in on the camp.
A few days before the Mugunga camp was destroyed, an American military
mission came through the camp. Speaking with megaphones, they asked refugees
to take advantage of their presence in the camp to return to Rwanda. After
that it would be too late. The refugees only began to return massively after
that event. The only exit from the camp that was not blocked was the one
leading to Rwanda
With the only alternatives being to return to Rwanda or
be killed by the armed rebels surrounding the camp, many people chose to
These observations are revealing. What is equally revealing is the unbending
US opposition to efforts by France and the European Union to establish a
multinational force for Zaire at the end of October and early November 1996.
>From November 4 through November 8, the headlines basically resembled this
headline from Le Monde: La France a du mal à convaincre lONU de lurgence
dune intervention au Zaïre.
> 140 (France is unable to convince the UN that intervention in Zaire is
The right and proper tale would have us believe that, unlike France, Prime
Minister Jean Chrétien easily convinced the UN to intervene. He even managed
to do it while resting and relaxing at his Harrington Lake cottage. Talk
about being gullible!
If Jean Chrétien succeeded in mobilizing the UN so easily, it was simply
because Washington told him to do it to block France. And of course the
Canadian Prime Minister went along. The CBC Fifth Estate program on November
18, 1997, reaches exactly the same conclusion: the operation was
orchestrated by Washington to make it look as though Canada was leading. To
say he succeeded in mobilizing the UN is a gross exaggeration. The only
thing he succeeded in doing was to kill the hopes of a real multinational
intervention at a time when the refugee crisis made it absolutely crucial.
The same reasoning applies to Raymond Chrétiens nomination as special envoy
of the UN secretary general and to Maurice Barils appointment to command
the still-born multinational force. That reasoning also helps us to
understand their behaviour. Jean Chrétien, Raymond Chrétien and Maurice
Baril were little more than operatives in a major American initiative aimed
at knocking Mobutu out of power in Zaire and replacing France as the main
foreign power operating in that country. Moreover, for services rendered -
more accurately, for services that were not rendered - Maurice Baril was
appointed Chief of Staff of the Canadian Armed Forces a few months later and
was appointed UN envoy to the Congo in 2003.
As of late October 1996, Emma Bonino, the European Commissioner for
Humanitarian Action, and Aldo Ajello, special European Envoy in the African
Great Lakes region, were both calling desperately for the establishment of a
multinational force to be led by France, Belgium and South Africa. Each call
was bluntly rejected by the United States. I see no usefulness in external
military intervention in Zaire, repeated the United States Ambassador to
Rwanda, Robert Gribbin.
Raymond Chrétien acknowledges that he was called on to be the UN special
envoy to make the Americans happy. When Boutros Boutros-Ghali appointed me,
he wanted someone who could work with the Americans. Raymond Chrétien added
that he insisted that all other international envoys be pulled out. I
didnt want Ms Emma Bonino or anybody else circulating there while I was
carrying out my mandate.
> 142 In other words, Raymond Chrétien did not want any other official
representatives such as the ones sent by the European Union to appear to
have any power to settle the problem. France was therefore effectively
sidelined since its voice was being heard through the European Union.
Maurice Baril played exactly the same role as commander of the still-born
force. Here is how the Québec City daily, Le Soleil, reported the dealings
that preceded Barils appointment as commander. United States and Canadian
government and military officials met at the White House to discuss the
multinational force, but Washington still had reservations about the chain
of command of the force and had no intention of seeing the United Nations
lead it. The principle of a Canadian command corresponded to the American
wishes that France would only have a secondary role in the international
force to be set up.
Former Prime Minister Kengo of Zaire points out that the Security Council
resolution adopted on November 14, 1996, called for the deployment of a
multinational force to enable the refugees to return to their country
peacefully, safely and with dignity. The force was mainly made up of
American, Canadian and British troops with a small French contingent. But
Paul Kagame never wanted the refugees to return to Rwanda peacefully, safely
and with dignity, Kengo insists. He wanted them to return to Rwanda as
stragglers, one by one, at his mercy. The international community just let
him do as he liked.
The safe and peaceful corridor was never set up, and it is easy to
understand why not. If the refugees had returned safely, peacefully and
with dignity, they would have been able to demand that their property and
belongings be returned to them, but most of all they could have demanded
free democratic elections. They would also have been in a position to demand
a place at an international negotiating table aimed to promote Rwandan
national reconciliation after six years of war. That would have complied
with the second point in Raymond Chrétiens UN mandate, which was to
organize an international conference.
Democratic elections - one man, one vote - would have been the death knell
of the RPF regime and of Paul Kagame. From the moment the Rwandan Patriotic
Front invaded Rwanda on October 1, 1990, everybody knew that the RPF, which
was more than 90 percent Tutsi, could never win elections in Rwanda where
only 15 percent of the population were Tutsis. Furthermore, national
reconciliation would also have meant the end of the hunt for génocidaires
in Zaire, and thereby eliminate the main pretext used to justify the
military intervention in Zaire of the Ugandan, Burundian and Rwandan armies
with US backing.
How could the policy that was so clearly and cynically described to Jean
Daniel in November 1996 - France has it all wrong, no question of keeping
Mobutu, the strongman is in Uganda, not Kinshasa - be implemented if Paul
Kagame were to be voted out of power and if there were no more
génocidaires to send the armies after.
Former Prime Minister Kengo made an understatement when he said Paul Kagame
never wanted the refugees to return to Rwanda peacefully, safely and with
dignity, and the international community let him do as he liked. Would it
not be more accurate to say: as self-proclaimed leader of the international
community, the United States, with the support of Canada and the United
Kingdom, told Paul Kagame to invade Zaire, to attack and bomb the refugee
camps and force some of them to regurn to Rwanda? Paul Kagame of course
willingly followed orders. It should be remembered that the United States,
Canada and the United Kingdom were to provide ninety percent of the 10,000
troops in the ill-famed still-born multinational force that would have had
the power to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees and
of Congolese people.
As is too often the case in major humanitarian crises, there are always some
so-called humanitarian professionals who, for reasons that are hard to
grasp, to everything in their power to see that the maximum number of people
die. The ubiquitous Belgian Senator Alain Destexhe, who is a former
secretary general of Doctors Without Borders, is a perfect example. Destexhe
fought hard against deployment of a multinational force in Eastern Zaire.
The terms used in his article published on November 14, 1996, are
staggering, especially coming from a doctor and an organization whose
founder, Bernard Kouchner, was soon to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. The
humanitarian Destexhe wrote in Le Monde that the refugees would never return
to Rwanda unless they are forced or are starved into doing so. He also
proposed forcible return saying that sometimes a painful political solution
is preferable to a policy of compassion.
Philip Gourevitch, who also favoured the painful political solution,
managed to present the bombing of the refugee camps and the forced return as
a humanitarian military operation because all the refugees are basically, in
his opinion, génocidaires. He describes refugee camp life as a sort of
Eden in Africa and belittles the tragedy of the refugees most of whom are
probably dead now: living in a refugee camp was not a bad economic
proposition for a Rwandan (
) Food was not only free, but ample;
malnutrition rates in the camps were far lower than anywhere else in the
region, on a par, in fact with those of Western Europe. General medical care
was also as good as it got in central Africa (
) The birth rate in the camps
was close to the limit of human possibility.
> 144 In short, they were multiplying like rabbits!
The demonization of Hutu refugees was central to the United States plan to
remove Mobutu from power in Kinshasa. On May 5, 1998, in Washington, the
House of Representatives International Relations Committee held hearings to
find out why the Clinton Administration had done so little to prevent the
massacres in Rwanda in 1994 and later in the Congo. Neither the State
Department nor the Defense Department appeared at the hearings even though
they had received formal requests. Only the chief of staff of USAID, Richard
McCall, testified. When he was asked why the United States was not pushing
for negotiations between Hutu rebels in the Congo and Paul Kagames
government in Kigali, McCall replied angrily: Theyre not rebels
Theyre génocidaires. It would be totally offensive to negotiate with them.
I would blow the roof of any building I was sitting in if that were
suggested to me.
Starting in 1995, recalls former Prime Minister Kengo wa Dondo, the
government of Zaire was getting messages from Washington demanding that
Mobutu anounce his decision to leave. Essentially the message went like
this. If President Mobutu were to announce on his own that he was stepping
down, the United States promised to grant him all the honours due to a
veteran head of state. If not, his body would dragged through the streets of
Kinshasa. In April 1997, when it became obvious that Mobutu was not about
to obey Washingtons ultimatum, President Clinton personally wrote to Mobutu
and threatened to let the rebels led by Laurent-Désiré Kabila and the
Rwandans take power in Kinshasa. Mobutu still refused to obey and so he was
removed, according to plan, on May 17, 1997.
The other feature of the cynical plan unveiled to Jean Daniel in November
1996 by Assistant Secretary of State Kornblum was the removal of Boutros
Boutros-Ghali as UN Secretary General. On November 19, 1996, in New York,
while the refugee crisis raged, the US Ambassador to the UN, Madeleine
Albright, vetoed the renewal of Boutros-Ghalis mandate, the man she liked
to call Frenchie.
> 147 Here is how the former secretary general described US behaviour. They
didnt want someone who would question their decisions. They wanted
everything, and everything at once! You know, when people have power
worked with absolute rulers all my life. They cannot accept discussion, they
cannot accept even a minimum of contradiction. I want that! And thats all.
What? You want to discuss the issue? I am the God of Gods, and I will have
what I want. And youre saying that you would like to think about it for a
Washington offered Boutros Boutros-Ghali the same honours it offered Mobutu.
He would be received by President Clinton at the White House, get honorary
doctorates from American Universities, and more, but he had to step down of
his own volition. Boutros-Ghali replied that he did not accept tips.
Under President Juvénal Habyarimana, Britain had no diplomatic
representation in Kigali. In 2002, Londons Ambassador to Rwanda was the
most important diplomat in the country according to former Rwandan Prime
Minister Twagiramungu and 2003 presidential candidate.
Raymond Chrétien returned to Rwanda as UN special envoy twenty years after
having been Canadian Ambassador to the region. He noted that one of the main
differences in Kigali was that English had taken over from French, and his
negotiations with the Rwandan Government were conducted in English. Rwanda
had adopted English as the official language along with Kinyarwanda and
French as early as January 1996. That decision also shows whom the new
government wanted to please.
Before, during and after the Rwandan tragedy of 1994 and its continuation in
the Congo, the media in English-speaking countries loudly denounced Frances
guilt and established a sinister French Connection by dishonestly using
grisly pictures, sensational headlines combined with innuendo and direct
accusations. With its imperialist motives, undercover actions and basically
fascist goals, France was made to be the overseer of a genocidal state.
Worst of all, it continued to honour bilateral agreements it had signed with
Rwanda. In the name of noble and just causes such as human rights and
anti-colonialism, everything had to be done to get France out of Rwanda and,
for that matter, out of Central Africa. Certain NGOs with their customary
dubious neutrality jumped into the fray and launched their own attacks
against iniquitous France. If ever a French official or journalist dared to
speak publicly about the existence of an English-speaking plot and offensive
conducted through a Tutsi rebel front, they were ridiculed. It was as if
France was the only country to have a vested interest in this part of the
world that supposedly was of no interest to anyone.
All the while France was being made to look so bad, it was no secret that
the United States was conducting a major offensive in French-speaking Africa
following the demise of the Soviet Union. American officials made no bones
about it. In March 1993, Under Secretary of State George Moose declared to
the Senate that we have to ensure that we have access to the tremendous
natural resources in Africa, a continent that accounts for 78 percent of the
worlds chrome reserves, 89 percent of platinum reserves and 59 percent of
> 149 After the Afro-American summit in Dakar in May 1995, the late Ron
Brown, Secretary of Commerce, made the following challenge: America is
going to be demanding of Africas traditional partners, starting with
France. We are no longer going to leave Africa to the Europeans.
> 150 And when Secretary of State Warren Christopher visited Africa in
October 1996, he clarified United States political goals in Africa: The
time is up when Africa could be divided into spheres of influence, when
foreign powers could consider whole groups of countries to be reserved for
them. Today Africa needs the support of all its friends rather than the
exclusive patronage of a few.
For a big power, even if it is the biggest and most influential in the
world, it is by no means a minor undertaking to bring another country to
break long-standing ties with others, to replace the official language that
has been in use for nearly a century, to reject administrative, educational
and military structures adopted since independence or earlier and to start
doing business in a different way. In fact, it is a major and difficult
shake-up that effects all aspects of the country, of neighbouring countries
and of groups of countries. That is basically the shake-up that the United
States planned and announced for Africa. It was also a warning to all the
French-speaking countries that were part of an organization created thanks
to the vision of an eminent African poet and political leader, Léopold Sédar
The American offensive against France in Africa explains why an unusual
number of Canadians were appointed to important positions in the central
African crisis. Roméo Dallaire, Maurice Baril, Louise Arbour and Raymond
Chrétien are the best known. Rarely have we seen so many in a major
international crisis. Many Canadian nationalists like to credit Canadas
lack of a colonial history, the countrys peace-keeping experience, or its
enhanced international role. All three reasons are far-fetched.
The image of an innocent Canada unsullied by its colonial past, in addition
to being inexact and overdone, should have been relegated to the story books
after what the Canadian army did in Somalia in 1992 and 1993. As for
peace-keeping, aside from Roméo Dallaire and Brent Beardsley, no members of
the Canadian Forces were in Rwanda before August 1994, because Canada did
not want to send troops there. Those who on the other hand try to defend the
idea of Canadas enhanced international prestige have been left out in the
cold at least since September 11, 2002, and the antics of George W. Bush.
The United States whose citizens are strangely proud to speak only one
language desperately needed a loyal French-speaking country. In the 1960s,
James Minnifie wrote a searing attack on Canada and its role as a front for
the American empire in his book entitled Peacekeeper or Powdermonkey. Add a
French-speaking veneer and a deep-set distrust of France, and Washington had
exactly the wolf in sheeps clothing it needed.
Though distrust of France in English-speaking Canada is nearly 250 years
old, it reached new summits during the political reign of Pierre Trudeau,
especially as the Québec independence movement gained ground. Distrust of
France in fact became an integral part of Canadas foreign policy. On the
other hand, Quebecers committed to a strong French-speaking Quebec know that
their future is intimately linked to the international prestige of France
and the French-speaking world. Solid and trusting relations with France are
Need we recall that the Francophonie Summit, which Senghor the President of
Senegal had envisioned in the early 1960s, became a reality only in 1986
because of Ottawas profound suspicions about Frances motives. Ottawa
politicians perceived France as a hostile and irredentist empire at work in
Quebec. The Canadian Government, for its part, likes to treat Quebec as
little more than a large municipality. A whole generation of Canadians,
especially in the armed forces, foreign affairs and the federal judicial
apparatus, have been raised and trained to distrust everything that is
French. To reach the top in any of these fields, Francophones are expected
to toe the line, not once, not twice, but continually, failing which
suspicion is immediately cast upon them especially by the media.
Louise Arbour, Raymond Chrétien, Maurice Baril and Roméo Dallaire are all
products of these Canadian institutions. While carrying out their respective
mandates, each one succeeded in provoking France, blocking it or keeping
that country on the sidelines. Each time France proposed a solution to the
Rwandan crisis and its sequel in the Congo, the United States and the United
Kingdom opposed it. And each time a Canadian was standing on the front line
doing the dirty work.
Senghor saw the group of French-speaking countries as a way to counter the
cultural and economic domination by English-speaking countries, and mainly
the United States, that he saw developing in the 1960s. He would surely have
seen that whenever the French-speaking world suffers a setback, French
speakers throughout the world, and not only in France, lose ground.
Despite appearances and Canadas superficial bilingualism adopted in order
to block the Quebec independence movement, Canada has always fought tooth
and nail against the French language both within the country and in foreign
affairs. Hence when the tally is taken of Canadas successes in beating
back the French language, it will be important to include the countrys
efforts in central Africa that started with the war in Rwanda in the early
On the 49th Parallel
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