French President Emmanuel Macron travels to Kigali on Thursday in the hope of re-establishing ties between the two nations after decades of Rwandan accusations that France was complicit in the 1994 genocide.
The visit follows the publication in March of a report by a French commission of inquiry which claimed that a colonial attitude had blinded French officials and that the government had a “grave and crushing” responsibility for not having planned. the slaughter.
However, the report exonerated France of its direct complicity in the killings of more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Rwandan President Paul 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 the main power in Rwandan politics since his rebel army put an end to the killings of death squads loyal to the government led by the Hutus. Read more
Macron, who also ostensibly tried to distance France from its colonial past, agreed in April to open the Rwandan archives of former French President François Mitterrand, who was in charge during the genocide. Read more
Shortly thereafter, Rwanda released its own report which concluded that France was aware that genocide was being prepared and had a responsibility to allow 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.
France then concealed its role for years, the report adds.
The Élysée Palace said on Friday that Macron would appoint a new ambassador to Rwanda – France’s first accredited envoy since 2015.
The French president is due to speak at the Gisozi genocide memorial in Kigali, where more than 250,000 Tutsis are buried. Although Kagame said it was to France, many Rwandans say they hope for a full apology.
“I wish he could ask forgiveness for what France did in 1994,” said Henriette Uwase, a 28-year-old street vendor selling mangoes, who was two when her father and two brothers were killed. .
Many Rwandans were angry because the perpetrators of the genocide had been able to live abroad, said Alain Gauthier, who is tracking down the perpetrators of the genocide with his Rwandan wife, a Tutsi who lost his mother and others.
“We are waiting for one thing and that is an apology,” he said. “Those who have committed genocide and are living comfortably in France (must) be judged. A lot of people say he won’t apologize, but I don’t see how Macron comes to Rwanda and leaves without apologizing for France’s role. “
The last visit of a French leader dates back to 2010.
After Rwanda, Macron will travel to South Africa, where he will meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss COVID-19 and regional crises including in Mozambique (TOTF.PA).
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