One reads with disquiet the following in The Times today:

“Paul Kagame, the guerrilla leader whose successful invasion ended the genocide in 1994 and who is now the country’s President, is expected to be a guest at the Conservative Party conference this autumn, The Times has learnt.”

The Conservative party should not extend this invitation without first considering some unpalatable facts about Mr. Kagame and his chums in the RPF. I write with some experience of the Rwanda story, having, until disagreements over strategy and tactics caused a parting of the ways, represented as Counsel one of the former Hutu Cabinet Ministers in the 1994 Government at the Rwanda Tribunal in Arusha.

The Prosecutor at Arusha is in possession of primâ facie evidence which would easily suffice, in ordinary circumstances, to justify the drawing of and issuing of an Indictment for prosecution of Kagame and other senior RPF adherents for grave crimes against humanity and war crimes. The body of evidence is, I have it on impeccable authority, substantial, compelling and of the gravest nature. Such an Indictment is only withheld for political reasons, I believe.

A constant criticism of the ICTR is that in dispensing justice it is, unlike the ICTY in The Hague, not even-handed and that in this instance only the defeated will be put on trial.

The Prosecutor and indeed the whole Tribunal at Arusha is terrified that if the slightest suggestion that Kagame is to be indicted were to be made, then the whole edifice which is the ICTR would come crumbling down (and it is an edifice which is so rotten that not much would be required to bring it down) because the government of Rwanda would immediately withdraw its co-operation (in such areas as allowing investigators access to witnesses, preventing witnesses from traveling, closing the Prosecutor’s Office in Kigali etc.) with the Tribunal and effectively bring its work to an end. Thus there is little present prospect of Kagame or anyone else being charged.

That said, there is considerable pressure on the Prosecutor to act and when the last trials of Hutu génocidaires are completed, it is conceivable that Indictments may still be issued.

One fully understands why HMG and others wish to cultivate this odious man. Ripping a francophone nation like Rwanda away from the bosom of the French Union will be a bitter blow for French pride and French prestige in Africa which may ripple out to other discontented Francophones on the continent to Britain’s undoubted benefit. (Some might say that ripping almost anything from the French bosom would be a good thing: suggestions on a clean beer-mat only!) But mostly it is the prospect of the development of oil and mineral resources in The DRC that attracts our interest and the hope that Kagame may enable Rwanda either to seize or at least exercise suzerainty over the border area (filled with Hutu refugees) of the DRC that abuts onto Rwanda wherein such resources are believed to lie. To cosy up to Kagame is, therefore, on the surface an attractive idea.

What troubles me is that having this man address the Conference may yet come back to haunt the Party if he should in due course be indicted or if more material concerning his crimes comes into the public domain. He is a man who is said to have plenty of blood on his hands. He had a major official visit to the UK recently (Blair being less troubled than many of us about the kind of individual he has to dinner) when the Red Carpet was rolled out and Kagame was duly fêted. Further rumours suggest that Rwanda will apply for and be granted membership of the Commonwealth.

Kagame has been accused by the French of shooting down the aeroplane of President Habyarimana, an act which may well have precipitated the genocide of 1994 in Rwanda. That appalling event only came to an end when Paul Kagame and his RPF swept back into Kigali as victors in a war which saw both sides commit unspeakable atrocities. It is as a result of his leadership of the RPF at that time that the potential Indictments arise.

I am deeply uneasy that we should be courting this unlovely man. The best policy would seem to me to be seen to sup with this man using a very long spoon.