French President Emmanuel Macron, on a visit to Rwanda, said France acknowledged its “responsibility” in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, apologizing for his country’s role, but without offering an official apology. His comments Thursday came during a solemn speech at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where 250,000 victims of the mass killings are buried.
Some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu militias in 100 days of bloodshed that began in April 1994. The genocide ended in July 1994 when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by current President Kagame, it swept from Uganda and seized control of the country.
Macron said France did not listen to those who warned it about the impending massacre in Rwanda and stood de facto for a “genocidal regime.” “Standing here today, with humility and respect, by his side, I have come to recognize our responsibilities,” he said, adding, however, that France was “not complicit” in the genocide. Macron said France had a duty to admit the “suffering it inflicted on the people of Rwanda by overvaluing silence over examination of the truth.”
He added that only those who had survived the horrors “may be able to forgive; Give us the gift of forgiveness ”. For his part, Kagame praised Macron’s speech. “Her words from him were something more valuable than an apology. They were the truth, ”he told a joint press conference after the two leaders met in Kigali. While Macron’s comments went further than his predecessors, many in Rwanda expected a full apology.
Ibuka, the country’s leading group of genocide survivors, said he was disappointed that he had not “presented a clear apology.” Egide Nkuranga, president of the association, said that Macron did not “apologize”, but that “he really tried to explain the genocide, how it happened, what they did not do, his responsibilities … It is very important, he shows that he understands.” The U.S.”
Macron’s visit follows the publication in March of a report by a French investigative panel that said a colonial attitude had blinded French officials and that the government bore a “serious and overwhelming” responsibility for failing to foresee the massacre. However, the report absolved France of its direct complicity in the killings.
Kagame, who has previously said that France participated in the genocide, said last week that the report “meant a lot” to the people of his country.
Rwandans could “perhaps not forget, but forgive” France for its role, said Kagame, a Tutsi and the leading power in Rwandan politics since his rebel army ended the killings of death squads loyal to the government-led. by the Hutus.
Macron agreed in April to open the Rwandan archives of former President Francois Mitterrand, who was in charge during the genocide. Shortly thereafter, Rwanda published its own report that concluded that France was aware that genocide was being prepared and had a responsibility to allow it, continuing its unwavering support for then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana.
It was the downing of Habyarimana’s plane, killing the president, that sparked the killing frenzy.
“French officials armed, advised, trained, equipped and protected the Rwandan government,” the report says. France then proceeded to cover up her role for years, he added.
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from Kigali, said Macron was “between a rock and a hard place, up to a point.”
“You have to think about France’s interests in Africa in general and here in Rwanda there is definitely a requirement to win the loyalty of Paul Kagame and the government to make the French narrative now match the RPF narrative,” Webb added, noting that the narratives surrounding the genocide and the events of the 1990s remain controversial and controversial.
“On the other hand, Macron has an election in France and he has to avoid criticism from the far right,” Webb said. “If he had apologized here, he most likely would have been attacked by the far-right and would not have been appreciated by powerful people in the military.”