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Rwanda expels German envoy as diplomatic row escalates

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Rwanda expels German envoy as diplomatic row escalates
A memorial to the 1993 genocide in Rwanda. Photo: DPA
20:05 CET+01:00
Rwanda expelled Germany's ambassador and prepared to issue indictments and arrest warrants against 23 French officials on Tuesday in a dramatic escalation of diplomatic tensions over the country's 1994 genocide.

As the African Union expressed "dismay and concern" at the arrest of a top aide to Rwanda's President Paul Kagame in Frankfurt, the regime in Kigali said it was recalling its envoy to Berlin and his German counterpart must leave.

"Rwanda's ambassador to Germany was recalled today for consultations," said Information Minister Louise Mushikiwabo. "The Rwandan government told the German ambassador to leave within 48 hours until the arrest of (Rose) Kabuye is resolved. The ambassador should leave the country by Thursday."

The move comes after Kabuye, President Paul Kagame's chief of protocol, was arrested Sunday as she landed in Germany on a French arrest warrant over suspicion of involvement in Rwandan ex-president Juvenal Habyarimana's killing.

The downing of Habyarimana's plane is widely seen as having triggered Rwanda's 1994 genocide which saw nearly 800,000 mainly ethnic Tutsis killed in a three-month period by rival Hutus.

French anti-terrorism judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere issued warrants in 2006 against nine members of Kagame's entourage suspected of having a hand in the attack on the plane that killed Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu. The arrest of Kabuye has particularly outraged the Kagame regime which has long accused France of being partly to blame for the massacres in Rwanda and complained that Paris and other European capitals were seeking to prosecute the victims rather than the perpetrators.

On Tuesday, around a thousand youths demonstrated in front of the French cultural centre in Kigali, which has been closed since Rwanda broke diplomatic ties with France in November 2006. Officials have said that a demonstration of women could also take place on Wednesday.

On Monday, several thousands demonstrators marched to the German embassy in Kigali and the offices of the Deutsche Welle, Germany's national broadcaster. Further evidence of Kigali's willingness to ramp up diplomatic tensions came when judicial sources said indictments and arrest warrants against 23 French military and political officials - including the late president Francois Mitterrand and former premier Dominique de Villepin - were imminent.

"The indictments are being finalised, the arrest warrants can be issued any time from now," a senior Rwandan justice official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Rwandan prosecutors had spent the past three months examining a 500-page report drafted by a special commission tasked with probing France's role in the genocide and released on August 5 by the justice ministry. It names former French prime minister Edouard Balladur, former foreign minister Alain Juppe and then-president Mitterrand, who died in 1996, among 13 French politicians accused of playing a role in the massacres.

The report alleges that France was aware of preparations for the genocide, contributed to planning and actively took part in the massacres. France, which has admitted to making "mistakes" in Rwanda but denied any direct responsibility for the massacres, has called the report "unacceptable."

The African Union meanwhile criticised the arrest of Kabuye, arguing that she should have been entitled to immunity as she was preparing for an upcoming state visit by Kagame who is an ethnic Tutsi.

"The Commission of the African Union has noted with dismay and concern the arrest and detention," the AU's executive arm said in a statement.

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