French President Emmanuel Macron said he recognizes his country’s role in Rwanda’s genocide and hopes for forgiveness during a memorial in Kigali on Thursday, seeking to restore relations after years of Rwandan accusations that France was complicit in the atrocities of 1994.
“Only those who have made it through that night can perhaps forgive and in so doing offer forgiveness,” Macron said at the Gisozi genocide memorial in Kigali, where more than 250,000 victims are buried.
“Hereby, humbly and with respect, I stand by your side today, coming to recognize the extent of our responsibilities. “
The visit follows the publication in March of a report by a French committee of inquiry which claimed that a colonial attitude had blinded French officials and that the government had a “grave and overwhelming” responsibility for not having planned. the slaughter.
However, the report absolved France of its direct complicity in the killings of more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus – a point also underlined by Macron in his speech.
“The killers who stalked the marshes, the hills, the churches, did not have the face of France. France was not an accomplice, ”Macron said.
“I think this speech was a very strong speech because it asked for forgiveness in a subtle but strong way. It was subtle but substantially strong, ”said Jean Paul Kimonyo, former assistant to Rwandan President Paul Kagame.
Kagame, who previously said France participated in the genocide, said last week that the report “meant a lot” to Rwandans.
Rwandans could “perhaps not forget, but forgive” France for its role, said Kagame, a Tutsi and main power in Rwandan politics since his rebel army ended the massacres of loyal death squads to the Hutu-led government. Read more
Macron, who ostensibly tried to distance France from its colonial past, agreed in April to open the Rwandan archives of former President François Mitterrand, who was in charge during the genocide. Read more
Shortly after, Rwanda released its own report that France was aware that genocide was in the works and had the responsibility to have allowed it, continuing in its unwavering support for then Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana. . Read more
It was the downing of Habyarimana’s plane, killing the president, that sparked the 100-day spree of killings.
“French officials have armed, advised, trained, equipped and protected the Rwandan government,” the report concludes, adding that France has covered its role for years.
On Friday, the Elysee Palace said Macron would appoint a new ambassador to Rwanda, the first accredited French envoy since 2015.
The streets of Kigali were quiet on Thursday, without any of the banners or flags that usually accompany a high profile visit.
The last visit of a French leader to Rwanda dates back to 2010.
From Rwanda, Macron will travel to South Africa, where he will meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss COVID-19 and regional crises, including one in Mozambique (TOTF.PA).
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