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Rwanda's Kagame lambasts French judge over warrants

KIGALI (Reuters) - Rwandan President Paul Kagame denounced as “bullying and arrogant” a French judge’s call for him to face a U.N. court over a 1994 plane crash that killed the country’s leader and sparked a genocide of 800,000 people.

Rwanda's President Paul Kagame gives a speech at the European Development days conference in Brussels, November 17, 2006. Kagame denounced as "bullying and arrogant" a French judge's call for him to face a U.N. court over a 1994 plane crash that killed the country's leader and sparked a genocide of 800,000 people. REUTERS/Yves Herman

“That some judge in France whose name I cannot even pronounce has something to say about Rwanda -- trying a president and some government officials -- that’s rubbish!” Kagame told more than 300 guests, most of them foreign donors, attending an annual meeting on development in Kigali.

“That is justice of bullies, arrogance. France cannot try anyone -- try who over what? They should first try themselves because they killed our people,” he said on Wednesday.

His remarks came a day after anti-terrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere filed a document at the Paris prosecutor’s office, citing evidence that Kagame, a Tutsi, and members of his military staff devised the operation to destroy Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane.

Bruguiere is also seeking international arrest warrants for nine Kagame aides, including the military’s chief of staff. But Kagame said French judges had no authority over judges in Rwanda.

Under French law, a warrant cannot be issued for Kagame, who enjoys diplomatic immunity as a serving head of state. But a judicial source said Bruguiere had written to U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan asking for Kagame to be brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

It was the latest twist in Rwanda’s sour relations with its former ally, France. Both countries have been at loggerheads since the massacre, with Rwanda accusing Paris of training soldiers it knew would later commit genocide.

France denies any wrongdoing, saying its military intervention helped Rwandans.

Habyarimana’s plane was hit by a missile as he flew to the Rwandan capital Kigali after a summit in April 1994. His killing triggered the massacre of 800,000 minority Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus in 100 days of bloodletting.

Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front rebels eventually defeated the Habyarimana government’s Hutu militias to end the killings.

ANTI-BULLYING MESSAGE

Kagame used the Kigali meeting, usually a forum to seek more aid for the tiny central African country, to extend his “anti-bullying” message to other donors.

Criticized by rights groups of stifling political opposition by arresting opponents, forcing others to flee and maintaining a tight grip on the media, Kagame accused donors of continued “undesirable interference” in Africa’s internal politics and imposing unfair conditions on aid.

“Richer countries still believe that they have a monopoly of expertise on how to govern us. We are not dummies, we are people with brains,” Kagame said, who at turns appeared visibly angry.

Rwanda intends to draw attention to the huge resource gap that exists in implementing a new development program. Initial estimates from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) suggest that this gap could average $1 billion a year between 2009-2020.

Last year, Rwanda received $500 million in donor aid, more than half of the country’s entire budget.

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