Kigali, May 27 (EFE).- French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday admitted his country’s “responsibility” in the 1994 Rwandan genocide but denied any collusion in carrying out the massacre of about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
“The killers roaming the swamps, the hills, the churches, they didn’t have the face of France. France was not an accomplice,” said Macron at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where the remains of 250,000 victims are buried.
“But France has a role, a history, and political responsibility in Rwanda,” he said. “It has a duty to not shy away from history and acknowledge the suffering it inflicted on the Rwandan people by keeping silent instead of examining the truth.”
“France failed to listen to those warning it, or overestimated its strength, thinking it could stop what was already occurring. France didn’t understand that by trying to avoid a regional conflict or civil war, it was in fact standing alongside a genocidal regime.”
The French head of state arrived in Kigali Thursday morning in a historically significant state visit attempting to normalize bilateral relations between France and Rwanda.
Relations have been bitter since the 1994 genocide, with accusations from Rwanda of French complicity in the massacre.
“By ignoring the warnings of the most sensible observers, France took on overwhelming responsibility in a downward spiral to the worst, which it intended to avoid,” said Macron, who bowed to the memorial and left a mourning wreath.
He was received by Rwandan president Paul Kagame, two months after a report issued by the French government accused the François Mitterrand administration (1981-1995) of making “staggering” mistakes in handling the humanitarian crisis in the central African country.
The commission of experts appointed to draft the official report, however, denied any complicity with the massacre.
France has no official ambassador appointed for Rwanda, despite maintaining diplomatic representation in the African state, but intends to name an ambassador soon and conclude the transition to normal bilateral relations.
The last French president to visit Rwanda was Nicolas Sarkozy in February 2010, when he admitted to France’s “serious political mistakes” before and during the genocide, although he did not visit the memorial.
France and Rwanda restored diplomatic relations in late 2009 after a three-year hiatus which began after Paris accused Kagame and nine other Rwandan government officials of shooting down a plane carrying then president Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundi counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira, both Hutus, on April 6, 1994.
The genocide started on April 7 after the killings of both African presidents, which the Rwandan government blamed on Tutsi rebels, Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front.
The events quickly escalated into the brutal massacre of about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in little more than three months, one of the worst genocides in recent memory. EFE