French press review 30 October 2017

All this morning’s French dailies give pride of place to yesterday’s anti-independence protest in the Catalan capital, Barcelona.

Just two days after the regional parliament declared independence and the national parliament said stop, something between 300,000 and one million people yesterday took to the streets to complain about the “madness” that is dividing Catalonia.

Right-wing daily Le Figaro notes that Madrid will officially take back control of the previously autonomous region this Monday morning in order to prepare for elections to be held in December.

Any regional government officials or civil servants who either ignore the takeover or impede the work of the replacements sent by the Spanish authorities will face heavy fines or jail sentences.

If pro-independence activists physically block access to Catalan administrative buildings, says Le Figaro, Madrid will have little choice but to send in the police, an action which could give the separatists the upper hand in the propaganda war.

On the question of separatist participation in the December election, an incongruity organised by “a neighbouring country”, Le Figaro says the pro-independence camp faces a real dilemma: if they boycott the election on the grounds that it is “foreign-inspired”, they risk being excluded from the regional parliament, a situation described by Artur Mas, a former centre-right president of Catalonia, as “fatal” for the separatists.

The far-left independence movement, the CUP, seems less worried. They want their supporters to boycott the vote on 21 December and instead take part in a giant paella party. It isn’t, unfortunately, clear who’s going to cook the paella.

Rwanda calls on Paris to drop investigation

Rwanda wants France to recognise its responsibilities in connection with the 1994 genocide.

Le Monde publishes an interview with Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, in which she calls for the definitive closure of the French criminal investigation into the April 1994 shooting down of a plane carrying the then president of Rwanda, Juvenal Habyarimana.

The investigation has now gone on for almost two decades and has resulted in the virtual collapse of diplomatic relations between Paris and Kigali.

The two French judges responsible for the case have summoned Rwandan Defence Minister James Kaberebe to respond to the evidence of a new witness who accuses Tutsi rebels under the command of Paul Kagame, the current president, of firing the missile that brought down Habyarimana’s aircraft.

The reason Paris got involved in the first place is that the pilot and copilot who also died in the assassination were French nationals. Their families asked the French courts to investigate the case.

Louise Mushikiwabo has described the judicial process as an attempt by those French authorities who supported the genocidal regime to cover up their own involvement.

She says Kigali has cooperated with the various investigations because the Rwandan government wants to move forward. But Mushikiwabo accuses Paris of arrogance and of politicising the affair.

She says Rwandans have confronted their own responsibilities in the terrible events of the summer of 1994, in which at least 800,000 people died. It is now time for France to do the same and accept that it played a terrible role.

While French President Emmanuel Macron was obviously too young to have played any role in the way Paris prepared for and reacted to the wave of ethnic killings, his current army chief, François Lecointre, was involved in the highly controversial military-humanitarian operation known as Turquoise, in the final weeks of the genocide.

Le Monde also suggests that the current French army number two, responsible for foreign operations, Grégoire de Saint-Quentin, who was one of the first people to visit the crash zone after the 1994 assassination, would be likely to resist any proposal by Paris to bring an end to a saga which has now gone on for 23 years.

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