Macron recognizes the “terrible responsibility” of France in the Rwandan genocide –

Macron recognizes the “terrible responsibility” of France in the Rwandan genocide – fr

KAMPALA Uganda – French President Emmanuel Macron publicly acknowledged his country’s “terrible responsibility” for the 1994 Rwandan genocide and asked for forgiveness for attempting to restore relations during a French leader’s first visit to the nation of East Africa for over a decade.

In a sober statement at the Gisozi genocide memorial in the capital, Kigali, where nearly a third of the 800,000 victims are buried, Mr. Macron said France made errors in judgment by standing before a genocidal regime for the 100 days of massacres.

“France has a political responsibility in Rwanda, it has the duty to recognize the part of the sufferings which it inflicted on the Rwandan people”, declared Mr. Macron, shortly after laying a wreath at the memorial. “I have come to recognize our responsibilities; only those who survived can perhaps forgive.
While Mr Macron’s remarks do not amount to a full apology, his focus on victims and survivors underscored France’s continued efforts to thaw three decades of frozen relations with Kigali. Mr Macron’s televised remarks were also greeted favorably in much of Rwanda, where the media is tightly controlled.

“This is a historic turning point,” said Kanimba Joseph, a 37-year-old genocide survivor from Kigali, who lost both parents in the murders. “By accepting its responsibility, France heals a lot of wounds.”

President Macron viewed images of genocide victims at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

ludovic marin / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Since 1994, the issue of alleged complicity in the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda has haunted French governments. Mr Macron, who has made resetting relations with African nations a centerpiece of his foreign policy, commissioned a report in 2019 to try to shed light on his country’s role in the killings.

The report, released in March this year, found France was blind to the genocide preparations of its government allied with President Juvénal Habyarimana, which ended up being dominated by ethnic Hutu extremists, who carried out the killings. . French forces were also slow to respond once the massacre of Tutsis and moderate Hutus began, he added.

Yet the report, compiled by 15 historians with unprecedented access to French government archives, found no evidence of France’s direct complicity in the genocide. A separate report by Paris prosecutors, released earlier this month, also stopped short of finding government complicity in the genocide.

The genocide was sparked by the downing of a plane carrying Mr. Habyarimana in April 1994 and did not stop until mid-July that year, in which some 800,000 people were killed. . French troops conducted a United Nations humanitarian intervention called Operation Turquoise from June to August 1994 at the height of the genocide.

The killings were halted after Paul Kagame, then rebel commander and now president of Rwanda, led a rebel force that captured Kigali in July 1994. The 63-year-old has since pushed the once-shattered nation into an economic powerhouse In the region. , although rights groups accuse him of authoritarianism and human rights violations.

Asked about the survivors’ wish for a simpler apology, Mr Macron said on Thursday: “I don’t think ‘apologies’ is the appropriate term. This recognition is what I can give. Sorry, it’s not for me to give, I can only hope.

On Thursday, Mr. Kagame greeted Mr. Macron.

“This visit is about the future, not the past,” he said. “It is an act of immense courage.”

In France, far-right leader Marine Le Pen said Mr Macron’s speech was an insult to all French people, the military and workers in non-governmental organizations who tried to save and protect the victims of genocide.

“France is respected when it stands up,” Ms. Le Pen said in a statement. “Not when she flogs herself for faults that are not her own.”

Bilateral relations were significantly strengthened last year when French police arrested Félicien Kabuga, the suspected financier of the Rwandan genocide, in an apartment near Paris, ending a manhunt that has lasted more than two decades. . The 84-year-old was also one of the alleged operators of Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, a radio station used to stir up hatred and incite genocide.

Even some of Mr. Kagame’s staunchest critics seemed encouraged by the thaw in relations with France, but urged Mr. Macron and other international donors to pay more attention to allegations of rights violations and persecution. politics in Rwanda.

“France is known as the cradle of human rights and Rwanda, led by Kagame, does not have these values,” said Victoire Ingabire, the main opposition leader in Rwanda. “France must help Rwanda understand how to govern well and respect human rights.”

Write to Nicholas Bariyo à [email protected]

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