During the cold war, the regime of Hutu President Juvénal Habyarimana was the “enfant chéri” of development practitioners, the Catholic Church, and French President François Mitterrand. A 20-year dictatorship was deemed “a peaceful outpost” in the “dangerous” African jungle. When Mr. Habyarimana was assassinated on April 6, 1994, the regime’s core members unleashed a genocidal hell against Tutsis and some moderate Hutus.
Habyarimana’s old allies disbelievingly went into shock (Brussels) and continued support for the Hutu extremists through denial (Paris). Seeing their illusions go up in smoke was something Belgium and France handled with great difficulty, but with terrible consequences for Rwandans themselves.
When Kagame and his predominantly Tutsi rebels took over, ending the 1994 bloodshed, a new generation fell in love with Rwanda. Anglo-Saxon politicians and aid workers combined geopolitical opportunism with genuine admiration for the RPF’s sophisticated security and good governance buzz.