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France has for too long valued silence above truth: Macron on Rwanda genocide

WION Web Team
Paris, FranceUpdated: May 27, 2021, 04:34 PM IST

French President Emmanuel Macron Photograph:(Reuters)

Story highlights

Macron, who has pointedly tried to distance France from its colonial past, agreed in April to open the Rwanda archives of former president Francois Mitterrand, who was in charge during the genocide

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday recognised his country's role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, from backing a genocidal regime to ignoring warnings of the impending massacres.

"Standing here today, with humility and respect, by your side, I have come to recognise our responsibilities," Macron said in a speech at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.

Macron is the first French leader since 2010 to visit the East African nation, which has long accused France of complicity in the killing of some 800,000 mostly Tutsi Rwandans.

"The killers who stalked the swamps, the hills, the churches, did not have the face of France. France was not an accomplice," Macron said.

“I think that speech was a very strong speech because he asked for forgiveness in a subtle manner but in a strong manner. It was subtle but substantively strong,” said Jean Paul Kimonyo, a former aide to Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Kagame, who has previously said France participated in the genocide, said last week that the report "meant a lot" to Rwandans.

Rwandans could "maybe not forget, but forgive," France for its role, said Kagame, a Tutsi and the main power in Rwandan politics since his rebel army ended the killings by death squads loyal to the Hutu-led government.

Macron, who has pointedly tried to distance France from its colonial past, agreed in April to open the Rwanda archives of former president Francois Mitterrand, who was in charge during the genocide.

Shortly afterwards Rwanda released its own report that found France was aware a genocide was being prepared and bore responsibility for enabling it, continuing in its unwavering support for Rwanda's then president, Juvenal Habyarimana.

It was the shooting down of Habyarimana's plane, killing the president, that unleashed the 100-day frenzy of killings.

"French officials armed, advised, trained, equipped, and protected the Rwandan government," the report concluded, adding that France covered up its role for years.

On Friday, the Elysee Palace said Macron would name a new ambassador to Rwanda, the first accredited French envoy since 2015.

The streets of Kigali were quiet on Thursday, with none of the banners or flags that usually accompany a high-level visit.

The last visit by a French leader to Rwanda was in 2010.

From Rwanda, Macron will travel to South Africa, where he will meet President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss COVID-19 and regional crises, including one in Mozambique.

(With inputs from agencies)