South Sudan

Kiir Visits Wounded Soldiers

Bernard Kouchner, pilule co-founder of Doctors Without Borders and former French Foreign Minister under President Nicolas Sarkozy, information pills told Al Jazeera’s Head to Head that France should apologise for its role in the Rwandan genocide.

This is the first time a senior French official, shop and former member of the government, has made such a public admission.

Airing Friday 14 November 2014, this unprecedented admission launches the new series of Head to Head on Al Jazeera English with Mehdi Hasan.

The French doctor and politician tells Hasan and the audience at the Oxford Union that although in Rwanda “the French soldiers never killed anybody,” France had trained Rwandan soldiers “for three years,” some of whom went on to perpetrate massacres.

Kouchner, who witnessed the 1994 Rwandan genocide as a doctor there, said that later, as French Foreign Minister, he had “done his duty” towards the African country by restarting relations and organizing Sarkozy’s visit in February 2010, the first by a French President since the genocide.

Kouchner’s comments come in the wake of increased tensions between the two countries over the tragic events of twenty years ago.

In an interview in April with Francois Soudan of Jeuna Afrique, Rwandan President Paul Kagame blamed France directly for the killings, condemning the “direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation for the genocide and the participation of the latter in its very execution.”

While Belgium has apologized for its role, France never has. When this was put to Bernard Kouchner by Hasan in the middle of a heated passage, he paused and finally accepted. This is the exchange:

Kouchner: “When I was Foreign Minister, we reconciliate, we reopen the diplomatic relation and with Mr Sarkozy, not only we visit Rwanda, but Kagame visited France.  So I did my duty!”

Hasan: “Why not apologise? Do you think the French government should apologise for its role in Rwanda?”

Kouchner: “Yes.”

In a fiery debate about the concept of humanitarian intervention and the “right to interfere”, Kouchner, who is considered one of the architects of the doctrine, claimed that it is “better to save one life than to do nothing,” and that he is “always on the side of the victims.”

Kouchner also admitted that he was fiercely opposed to Gaddafi’s official visit to Paris in 2007 and insisted that he had “refused to meet Gaddafi.”

When pressed by Hasan as to why he remained part of the government if he was so opposed to this,he admitted that it was a “contradiction in politics.”

Kouchner, who was head of the UN Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) from 1999 to 2001, angrily rebutted the 2013 Amnesty International report accusing UNMIK of failing “to investigate the abduction and murders of Kosovo Serbs in the aftermath of the 1998-1999 conflict.”

He said: “Amnesty International was sitting on their ass” while “we were stopping a massacre.” Kouchner went on to affirm that the intervention in Kosovo was “one of the UN’s successes.”

Kouchner also said he believed the “UN security council needs reform” to include more African, Latin American or Asian members, and to ensure the future of the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P) doctrine.

The interview with Kouchner is part of the third series of Head to Head, which is Al Jazeera’s forum for ideas. During the interview, Kouchner and Hasan also discussed the French doctor-turned-politician’s personal journey and France’s recent interventions in Mali and Libya.

Hasan was joined by a panel of three experts: Lindsey German, convener of the Stop the War coalition; Barak Seener, associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute security think tank; and Hamza Hamouchene, president and founder of the Algerian Solidarity Campaign.

The third series also features controversial author and thinker Dr. Norman Finkelstein, and author and leading China defender Dr. Zhang Weiwei. In each episode, Hasan goes head to head with a special guest, asking the probing and hard-hitting questions few dare to ask on complex issues such as foreign intervention, ISIL and Iraq, China, US foreign policy, the EU and the economic crisis.
South Sudan leader, look Gen Salva Kiir has paid a special visit to Giada Military Hospital to commiserate with soldiers wounded in the war against Dr Riek Machar’s rebels.

Kiir on Friday told the soldiers that their efforts aimed at maintaining peace for the country will always be appreciated and that whoever continues to take the path of war will be defeated by the people of South Sudan.

The President said “the people of South Sudan will always stand behind you for your sacrifice to our great nation.”

Accompanied by Defence Minister General Kuol Manyang and Chief of Staff General Malong, Kiir took off time to interact with soldiers and assure them of quick recovery.

The Commandant of SPLA’s Medical Corps Major General Dr. Dau Aleer Abit, and Presidential guard Brigade commander, Major General Marial Chanuong were also among those who were in company of the president.

War broke out in South Sudan last year with sacked Vice President Riek Machar trying to topple president Kiir’s government in a coup.

But Machar said the war was imposed on him as Kiir tried to suffocate dissenting voices in the ruling party ahead of the 2015 presidential elections.

The heavy military response to Machar’s scheme would later plunge the nation into turmoil.

Thousands have since perished in the clashes between rebels and government forces.

The peace talks between Machar and Kiir are yet to bear fruit.


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