Saturday, October 28, 2006


Colonial rights and wrongs.

EURef recently reported on the latest in the attempts of Rwanda to come to terms with the genocide which took place over a decade ago, by blaming France.

Well, that could be all it is, but this report indicates some telling actions on the part of French troops, including how "French forces lured Tutsis from hideouts in the hills to village centers where they were killed."

That detail comes right at the end of the article, and one senses that, where the media have covered the latest allegations, scepticism has been built in to the reporting. The BBC's article, for example, takes a long time before moving to specifics.

What is not in doubt is that France trained the Hutu military which was active in the slaughter, up to the time of the slaughter (after it there was no need).

Beyond that, the problem is that there are strong political motives to blame France, exemplified here, and there is a history of false claims against (fmr) colonial powers such as this one where the Brits were accused of mass rape of Kenyan women.

The unequal battle and sometime absurdity of African claims against (fmr) colonial powers is comically evident in the understated BBC presentation:

"A forensic examination of police records in Kenya has concluded that all known reports of alleged rape by British army soldiers are forgeries.

This is a major development in the rape cases"

Er, what rape cases?

Still, despite this there is a moral responsibility I would like to highlight, and by that standard the French are well and truly guilty. The moral standards in Africa may be terribly schizophrenic, but if a sane person, for the sake of retaining and enhancing their status in society, facilitated and encouraged a temporarily insane and generally unstable person's desire to kill people, wouldn't they actually be morally guiltier than the mental person?

It may sound like a thin argument, but in the absence of reliable evidence there is much sense in saying that France was responsible for the genocide, an event of remarkable superfluity in Africa's grim trajectory.

The great film Hotel Rwanda begins with a radio broadcast indicating President Clinton's preoccupation with Bosnia, and later another broadcast describes the refusal of the State department to define events as "genocide"- a definition upon which intervention was contingent.

But the part which struck me most was the part where hero of the story, Rwandan hotel manager Paul Rusesabagina, calls his Sabena company boss in Belgium as a last throw of the dice when facing Hutu troops bent on emptying his hotel of its Tutsi refugees. The exchange went thus:

Sabena boss: "Who can I call to stop this?"

Rusesabagina: "The French, they supply the Hutu army".

Sabena boss: "I'll call you right back"

The Sabena boss (the film explains) contacts the French President's office. The hotel was spared. QED.

Heavy handed film maker's moralising for the audience, or a summary of action that took place?

The film is accurate and precise about British and US actions at the time, as well as UN and Belgian actions. I wouldn't bet against it over the French involvement. I never bought the army rape allegations from Kenya, though. Some things chime with their contexts, and the French involvemnt in Rwandan genocide is one of them. When you look at their behaviour in the Ivory Coast, a pattern of callousness seems to emerge quite alien from the British amnesia which tends to be our predominant vice.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Well, what d'you know? Sudan's about to annex Chad.

Despite media moral equivalence between Sudanese rebels and Sudan's military/militias, and despite moral equivalence between Sudan and Chad
- countries of wildly differing military strength- it was always blatantly obvious who the regional power was, and how aggressive (scroll half way down) were its intents.

We will live to regret not being tougher on Sudan. In the modern context occupation of territory is key (think how difficult it is for the US in Iraq when they occupy only dots on a map, or Israel when they try to take out Hezbullah), and the Islamists are getting plenty of that all across North and East Africa.

It's funny but I'm getting this pain in my back right where my White Man's Burden used to be.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Non-random gleanings

By the way, I wonder if any helpful reader would care to provide a working definition of "unsustainable."- Mark Steyn on the 300th million American

"what if the history books of the future are written in Arabic or Farsi? 2000 years ago they were in Latin"- a commenter on Mark Steyn's doomsday scenario for Europe and elsewhere, reviewed here.

"You start assembling a list of deepen the radiates out... eventually you try to reach as much of the universe as you can"- Lawrence Wright describing his authorship of The Looming Tower, the story of Al Qaeda's rise to lethality. Pajamas interview here (audio). New Yorker interview (text) here.

ps. for those concerned, I haven't given up pointing out BBC bias; they're pointing it out themselves right enough. Just recharging the batteries on that front.

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