France bears a “terrible responsibility” for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, President Emmanuel Macron said in a long-awaited speech in Kigali, the capital of the African country. Is.
Speaking at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where 250,000 victims of the massacres are buried, Macron said France was not complicit in the tragedy but had made errors of judgment that had appalling consequences.
“By engaging … in a conflict in which it had no previous experience, France ignored warnings and overestimated its strength,” Macron said.
“France failed to understand that, in its efforts to prevent regional conflict or civil war, it was in fact standing alongside a genocidal regime. By ignoring the warnings of the most lucid observers, France took on a terrible responsibility in a chain of events that resulted in the worst possible outcome, even if that was exactly what [France] hope to avoid.
Macron is the first French leader since 2010 to visit Kigali, which has long accused France of complicity in the murder of some 800,000 Rwandans, most of them Tutsi.
French troops carried out a military-humanitarian intervention called Operation Turquoise launched by Paris under a UN mandate between June and August 1994, but critics have long said it was intended to support the responsible Hutu government. genocide, an assertion of a recent official French report by confirms a team of historians and archivists.
The visit is highly symbolic and aims to emerge from three decades of diplomatic tensions over France’s role in the genocide.
Officials from the Elysee Palace said the visit was to mark “the last step in the normalization of relations between France and Rwanda”.
Macron landed in Kigali shortly after 7 a.m. local time for a busy day-long visit before heading to South Africa on Friday, according to the French presidency.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has repeatedly accused France of contributing to the genocide, said earlier this year that relations between Paris and Kigali were improving.
Kagame has been in power since the age of 36, when his rebel army from the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) routed the genocidal regime and seized Kigali.
The 63-year-old has been hailed by the international community for the stability and economic development he has brought to Rwanda, but he has also been accused of leading an authoritarian one-party state.
Earlier this week, two of Rwanda’s most prominent opposition leaders accused Macron of ignoring political repression and rights violations in their country.
“President Emmanuel Macron does not hesitate publicly to outright castigate dictatorial regimes, but remains silent on the authoritarian regime and human rights violations by the Rwandan regime,” said critics Victoire Ingabire and Bernard Ntaganda in a statement.
Rwanda severed diplomatic relations with France in 2006 after a French judge ordered arrest warrants against nine Kagame collaborators accused of links to the downing of Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana’s plane on April 6, 1994 The killings began the next day and continued until July 15. For 100 days, armed militias massacred members of the Tutsi ethnic group and moderate Hutus with a brutality that shocked the international community, although no outside country intervened to stop the massacres.
Nicolas Sarkozy, then President of France, visited Kigali in 2010. Sarkozy admitted that France had made an “error in judgment” and “serious mistakes” at the time of the genocide, but refrained from presenting excuses. His remarks fell short of expectations in Rwanda and bilateral relations have not improved.
Macron’s comments also stopped before offering a full apology, although he went further than his predecessors in saying that only those who had survived the horrors “maybe can forgive, give us the gift of forgiveness” .
Analysts have described Macron’s visit as a major diplomatic achievement for Kagame. “This is an absolute victory for Kagami on so many levels and, while this is the role that France played in 1994, it also legitimizes his government today in many ways, and I think it is. ‘this is where the problem lies,’ said Stephanie Wolters, expert at the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg. “We have accumulated knowledge over the past few years … which makes it very clear that this is not a diet you want to praise.”