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Terror brings France and Belgium to follow Kagame’s lead

Recent terrorist attacks in Europe have catalysed responses that would probably have invited torrents of criticism from Western governments and rights activists had they occurred in countries with governments they routinely chastised for human-rights abuses, even when they too are responding to developments they have identified as constituting threats to their national security.

It is now clear that among nations terrorism plays the levelling role that death plays among humans. Wherever it shows its face or is felt to lurk in the shadows waiting to strike, it brings out striking similarities in the conduct of governments, regardless of how radically different some may appear to be under normal circumstances.

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France reinforces Security after attacks. (Photo/Internet)

There was a time, for example, when the US was never associated with violations of human rights, at home anyway, in the same way that countries such as Cuba were. And then came terrorism and its international networks.

For many years now, Guantanamo Bay and several other responses to the threat of terrorism have shown us the other side of the United States.

In Belgium, following a shootout between the security forces and alleged terrorists in the city of Verviers, the government deployed hundreds of troops on the streets of the capital Brussels and the northern city of Antwerp.

Justifying the deployment of the military rather than the police, something many Belgians have not experienced in their lifetime, the Interior Minister argued that the country had “to make use of all the forces at its disposal”.

In France where prior to the shootout in Belgium terrorist violence and action by the security forces had left 20 people dead, the government deployed 15,000 troops “to provide additional security.”

In addition, in both countries and elsewhere in Europe, governments stepped up their vigilance, leading to increased surveillance and several raids on premises suspected of harbouring would-be terrorists or their accomplices.

The raids were followed by arrests and in some cases, fast-tracked prosecutions and incarceration of several individuals. At the time of writing this article, the BBC was reporting that the government of France had decided to recruit extra security officers to, among other things, keep watch over 10,000 individuals suspected of having terrorist links.

In the light of what had just happened and the fear that it could recur, all this makes perfect sense. However, it also raises questions, and here I would like to bring post-genocide Rwanda into the discussion to illustrate the point.

Following the genocide against the Tutsi and the mass murder of members of the Hutu community who opposed it and the extremism that begot it, large numbers of the people accused of planning and executing these crimes fled to Europe, many to France and Belgium.

Many still live there and are among the leaders of some of the political organisations bringing together Rwanda’s “exiled opposition,” including those that are in formal alliance with the DRC-based FDLR.

Their key objective remains to return to Rwanda, seize power, and complete their genocidal plans. Attempts by the government of Rwanda to have them extradited for trial have for the most part been stonewalled, amid a few symbolic prosecutions here and there, only a few of which deliver custodial sentences.

France has been particularly notorious in its go-slow handling of suspects some of whom, reports suggest, continue actively to pursue regime change in Kigali. Contrast that with the speed with which the authorities there have pursued Islamists accused of complicity with terrorists.


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