By Jonathan Power

LUND, Sweden (IDN-INPS) - Eleven hundred years ago Europe was a backwater. There were no grand cities, apart from Cordoba in Spain which was Muslim. The Middle East was much further ahead, still absorbing the intellectual delights and challenges of Greek science, medicine and architecture which Europeans were largely ignorant of. In southern China agriculture advanced and trade in tea, porcelain and silk flourished.

By 1914 it was a totally different world. The Europeans ruled 84% of the globe and they had colonies everywhere. How was it that Europe and its offspring, the United States, became the dominant dynamic force in the world, and still are today in most things?

- Photo: 2021

Macron Admits Responsibility for Rwanda Genocide—Mali Has an Interim President—Lesotho Factory Workers Clash with Police

By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network

NEW YORK (IDN) — French President Emmanuel Macron in a meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame acknowledged that France bears partial responsibility for the Rwandan genocide, a historic confession that could mark a watershed moment in the fragile relations between the two countries.

France ignored warnings of genocide in 1994 and bears “overwhelming responsibility in a spiral that ended in the worst,” he said. The country “was not an accomplice” in the genocide, he insisted but ended up siding with Rwanda’s “genocidal regime” in the slide toward the massacres. Macron was speaking at a memorial for victims of the genocide in Kigali, the Rwandan capital.

“Only those who went through that night can perhaps forgive,” he said.

Failure by the international community to intervene during the mass slaughter has left a scar on relations between France and other Western powers and Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who was born into a Tutsi family.

For France to gain the trust of Rwandans, observed a writer for The Conversation, the country has to commit itself to combatting genocide ideology and denial. A great start would be the arrest and extradition of Rwandans who participated in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the country’s first leader to visit Rwanda following the genocide. He blamed “political errors” for the country’s inaction at the time. Relations deteriorated again under president François Hollande who minimized France’s involvement prior to and during the genocide.

Macron, as president, has sought to improve relations with Rwanda. He ordered an examination of France’s responsibility and a report released in March concluded that the country bore responsibilities for the 1994 events but was not complicit in the crimes.

Some of the report’s contents were echoed by Macron on May 27.

While failing to deliver an apology, Kagame said he welcomed the French leader’s words as “the truth” and “something more valuable than an apology.”

Kagame’s decades in power have been marked by a stifling of any opposition, often on grounds that dissenters are genocide deniers or would-be instigators of another genocide.

An ongoing case against Paul Rusesabagina, the famed hero of the Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda,” has resurfaced many of the post-genocide period’s grievances. Rusesabagina is accused by the government of financing rebels tied to genocide perpetrators and attempting to overthrow Kagame. His family asserts that the charges against him are politically motivated. 

Dim Prospects for Elections in Mali

Interim President of Mali and military coup leader Col. Goita.
> Interim President of Mali and military coup leader Col. Goita.

For the second time in a year, the governing body in Mali has been ousted in a military coup, leaving regional leaders scrambling to settle the political crisis and restore an elected government.

After an emergency weekend meeting held in Ghana, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) urged the Malian coup leaders to stick to a commitment to hold a presidential election next February.

In a communique released after the emergency summit, the bloc also said that Malian authorities must nominate a new interim civilian prime minister.

The West African nation is one of the largest producers of gold in Africa but one of the poorest countries of the continent. Gold mining by multinational companies has carried on as usual, although stocks have fallen slightly due to the increased political risk.

The first coup in August forced out the elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, amid labour strikes and seething frustration over a crumbling economy, decrepit public services and schools, and a wave of inter-ethnic violence that killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes.

Crowds were seen rejoicing after Keita was removed by a group of young colonels.

Military support from France, the former colonial power, poured in to quell the insurgency of jihadist groups but armed forces’ abuses skyrocketed.

Boubacar was replaced by an interim president and prime minister who were removed toward the end of May for failing in their duties and seeking to sabotage the country’s transition to elected leaders, according to the military coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita. “We had to choose between disorder and cohesion within the defence and security forces,” Goita said in public comments, “and we chose cohesion.”

Meanwhile, a hearing by Mali’s constitutional court confirmed Colonial Goita as the country’s transitional president.

The court’s ruling on May 28 declared that Col Goïta should take on the responsibilities of interim president “to lead the transition process to its conclusion”.

Elections are still scheduled for next February and a new interim prime minister may be appointed in the coming weeks.

Factory Workers in Lesotho Clash with Police Over Low Wages

A factory worker in Lesotho
> A factory worker in Lesotho

A woman has died after being shot during violent clashes between factory workers and police in Lesotho as a strike for a living wage goes into its second week.

Demonstrations spilled over into violence with looting and damage reported to several businesses in the capital Maseru. Trade unions say they have lost control over the angry protests over pay.

Lesotho’s 50,000 factory workers are demanding a 20% salary increase for the lowest paid employees, who take home the local equivalent of $8.20 a month. The employers say they can only pay a 5% increase because of the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on their businesses.

Workers have been fighting running battles with police and army officers, who have been blocking the protests, which they say are “in contravention of Covid-19 regulations”.

A week earlier, workers blocked roads with rocks, logs, broken streetlamps and rubbish bins, which the police dispersed with a water cannon.

During these clashes a worker, Motselisi Manase, was fatally shot.

Sam Mokhele, from the National Clothing Textile and Allied Workers Union (NACTWU), told the Guardian on Thursday: “It is unfortunate that we lost one of our members, Motselisi Manase, who worked in the packaging department at Nien Hsing textile factory. It is sad that neither the police nor the army, who were both present, are acknowledging the tragic death.”

Last month, three workers were hospitalized after police shot at demonstrators with rubber bullets. Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane criticized the police for “state-sponsored violence” against civilians in violation of constitutional provisions guaranteeing their freedom from cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment.

Meanwhile, prices of goods have increased dramatically since the first Covid-19 lockdown last year. Cooking oil alone has more than doubled in price.

Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro said a new salary would be published on June 16 and encouraged the strikers to return to work. But unions said that workers would “stay at home until they have a concrete promise that they would get salary increases” despite the threat of having their salaries for May docked for the days that they have been out of work.

According to unions, 95% of the workers are women, and low wages exacerbates their vulnerability in a country with a high prevalence of violent crimes against women. [IDN-InDepthNews – 31 May 2021]

Top photo: Rwanda President Kagame holds bilateral talks with President Macron on May 23, 2018.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate

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