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Europe

European Press Review: Worries About Rwanda

European editorials on Wednesday concentrated on Rwanda’s elections, bombings in India and Tony Blair’s problems in Iraq.

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Rwandan President Paul Kagame was easily re-elected on Monday.

Austria’s liberal Der Standard in Vienna commented on the questionable nature of Paul Kagame’s electoral victory in Rwanda. “Hardly anyone would characterize Rwanda’s old and new president Paul Kagame as a glowing democrat,” the paper said. “The gaunt Tutsi rules a de-facto one-party state and throws opponents into prison; he is a dictator.” The paper conceded that Kagame has done a good job enforcing peace in a land that, in 1994, was in the midst of genocide, but added that, “Rwanda’s stability has only been achieved because the war was exported to the neighboring Congo.” The paper accuses Kagame of exaggerating the danger of Hutu gangs along the Congo border to justify his support of rebels there.

That is a charge echoed in the UK’s The Independent. “The president has made great play of putting nationalism above tribalism,” the paper said, “but the reality is that the inner circle of government is still almost exclusively drawn from the Tutsi group which conquered the country after the genocide...For understandable reasons, Britain’s support of Mr. Kagame over the past eight years has been largely unconditional.” The paper said without backing off now, Britain needs to voice some concerns along with its deserved congratulations.

In Norway, Oslo’s Aftenposten warned of consequences to follow the recent bombings in Bombay, India, where at least 50 people have died. “Indian authorities say a terrorist organization in Pakistan coordinated the attack along with a banned Indian Islamic student movement,” the paper said. “This suspicion could be valid, but it is difficult to determine whether a harder Indian line – which could torpedo the difficult peace process that Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee has banked his reputation on -- is to be expected.” The paper said if the dialogue between India and Pakistan is broken off, the consequences will be severe.

Another British newspaper, The Guardian, meanwhile, looked for meaning in the ongoing hearings into whether the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair intentionally overstated the danger posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The paper said that testimony by high-ranking British intelligence official John Scarlett not only corroborates the government’s assertion that it was acting in good faith, but also indicates that, as intelligence agencies respond to the asymmetric threat of terrorism, they will have to be given both more leeway to act and, at the same time, held more accountable for their actions. “In this new world, dossiers are here to stay,” the paper said. “And so is accountability.”