KIGALI, Rwanda – In an important speech during his visit to Rwanda, French President Emmanuel Macron said that he acknowledged that France had a major responsibility for the 1994 genocide in the country in Central Africa.
Macron solemnly explained how France had let down the 800,000 victims of the genocide, but he stopped by an apology.
France was ‘not an accomplice’ in the genocide, but eventually joined the ‘genocide regime’ of Rwanda and bore an ‘overwhelming responsibility’ in the move after the massacres, the French leader said. .
‘France has a role, a history and a political responsibility in Rwanda. ‘It has a duty: to face history and acknowledge the suffering it has inflicted on the Rwandan people by favoring silence for too long over the investigation of the truth,’ Macron said.
When the genocide began, “the international community took three months, three endless months before we responded, and we all left hundreds of thousands of victims.”
France’s failures contributed to ’27 years of bitter distance ‘between the two countries, he said.
“I have to acknowledge our responsibilities,” Macron said.
Although Macron did not apologize, he received praise from Rwandan President Paul Kagame for his ‘powerful speech’.
“His words were something more valuable than an apology, that was the truth,” Kagame said. “It was an act of great courage.”
Kagame and Macron both indicated that a page had been turned over in the ties between France and Rwanda.
“This visit is about the future, not the past,” Kagame said, adding that he and Macron discussed a range of issues, including investment and business support.
Macron said they are opening a new page and rebuilding the ties of ‘strong and irreversible’. He said he had asked to appoint a French ambassador to Rwanda after six years where France had not yet been one in the country.
Macron appeared to explain his lack of apology, saying: ‘A genocide cannot be excused; one lives with it. ‘
Instead, he explained that he had decided to apply ‘the white light of truth’ to France’s role in the genocide and to acknowledge its responsibilities.
“I can give this recognition. This is not my pardon to give, “Macron said, promising to try to bring suspects of genocide to justice.
Macron also said he would get 100,000 coronavirus vaccines for Rwanda.
Rwandans hoping for an apology said they were disappointed by Macron’s speech.
“We do not want to hear him talk about responsibility, about France’s role in the genocide,” Dan Karenzi, survivor of the genocide, told The Associated Press. “We, the survivors, wanted to hear Macron officially apologize. I’m really disappointed. ”
The opposition Rwandan platform for democracy tweeted before Macron’s speech that he hoped he would ‘honestly apologize’ and ‘promise to pay compensation’ to the victims of genocide.
Macron arrived in Kigali early Thursday and met Kagame in the presidential residence. Macron then tours the memorial to the insane massacre in 1994 in which Hutu extremists killed mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus who tried to protect them.
Macron’s journey builds on a series of French efforts since his 2017 election to restore ties between the two countries.
Two reports completed in March and April, examining France’s role in the genocide, helped pave the way for Macron’s visit, the first by a French president in 11 years.
The previous visit, by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010, was the first by a French leader after the 1994 massacre turned relations in a tailspin. Rwanda’s government organizations and survivors’ organizations have often accused France of training and arming militias and former government troops who led the genocide.
Kagame, who has been Rwanda’s de facto leader since 1994 and its president since 2000, has been praised abroad for restoring order and progress in economic development and health care. But right-wing dogs, dissidents and others accuse Kagame of harsh rule.