Friday, January 17, 2014

Utter Balderdash

A review of Rwanda - the new scramble for Africa by Robin Philpot.

 I rarely review books that I find inaccurate and absurd, but this one fits both adjectives.  Ostensibly it is a relook at events in Rwanda that led up to the genocide and some of what happened afterward, but from the beginning the theory is that the United States and other western powers, especially the U.K. and Belgium, plotted and conspired to replace the Habyarimana regime with the RPF and thus to render central Africa part of a greater Anglo-American sphere of influence.  Philpot bases this conclusion on the observation that the international community never responded forcefully enough to the invasion of Rwanda by Ugandan RPA mutineers.  He judged the lack of a stinging rebuke and action to reverse the situation proof that the U.S. sponsored and approved the invasion.  Secondly, he cited as proof of conspiracy the fact that Habyarimana was hamstrung and sidelined during the Arusha negotiations and afterwards by what he judged were western manipulations of Habyarimana plus endorsements of RPF objectives.  Thirdly, Philpot believed the fact that no credible international investigation was ever mounted into the assassination of presidents Habyarimana and Ntayarmira when their plane was shot down on April 6, 1994, proved collusion.  Further proof of conspiracy arose from the U.S. recalcitrance to provide for an adequate UN peace keeping operation both prior to April 1994 and afterwards when genocide was in full swing.

 I took particular umbrage from the assertions in the book that the United States was actively engaged in the Rwanda/Ugandan/ Burundian invasion of Zaire in 1996. I was the U.S. ambassador in Rwanda at that time and I know Philpot’s allegations are just not true.

Philpot sprinkled his book with quotations from Boutros Ghali, Faustin Twagiramungu and others who had axes to grind, and did so after the fact.  In addition to excoriating the United States, Philpot saved special venom for the Canadians involved in Rwandan issues, especially MG Romeo Dallaire and Louise Arbor, who became head of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.  Repeatedly calling Canada  a lackey of the U.S. Philpot took his countrymen to task for their actions regarding Rwanda, but also for not being sufficiently sympathetic to Quebecois sensitivities.  Of course, Philpot extrapolated from the African conspiracy he detailed to similar conspiracies regarding Syria, Libya and elsewhere.

In conclusion, the historical record is fairly clear about who did what and why.  To his discredit Philpot seized upon the what but invented his own why.  Sadly,  in the end Philpot’s conclusions are inherently racist  because of his basic premise that Africans were not competent enough to organize their own politics, fights, disagreements and wars, therefore the guiding hand must be external, i.e. American.  

I do not recommend that anyone read this book.

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