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The French president goes Thursday and Friday to Rwanda to try to normalize relations poisoned for more than a quarter of a century by the role of France in the genocide of 1994.
The “new page” desired by the Elysee between France and Rwanda opens on Thursday. French President Emmanuel Macron is expected in Rwanda on May 27 with the ambition to finally normalize bilateral relations poisoned for more than a quarter of a century by the role played by France in the genocide of the Tutsi of 1994.
This short trip to the “land of a thousand hills” opens in a climate of optimism both in Paris and in Kigali.
Emmanuel Macron said last week that he will be “keen to write a new page” between France and Rwanda, two countries which, according to his counterpart Paul Kagame, “now have the opportunity” to “create a good relationship”.
A “pacified memory”, “a renewed relationship”
Going to Rwanda is “a particularly strong act for the President of the Republic” and “it is the sign (…) of a pacified memory, of a renewed relationship”, underlined the spokesperson of the government. French, Gabriel Attal, Wednesday.
“This is proof that the will of the President of the Republic to look at our history, our past, face to face and in complete transparency is the best way to move forward,” he added at the end of the Council of ministers.
Emmanuel Macron will have to find the right words upon his arrival Thursday morning in Kigali for his first distant trip since the start of the Covid-19 crisis. He will go directly to the Genocide Memorial, located in Gisozi, a district of the capital, where the remains of more than 250,000 victims are buried.
During this moment of “special solemnity”, according to the Élysée, he will deliver a long-awaited speech addressing in particular the “survivors” of this genocide which left more than 800,000 dead, mainly within the Tutsi minority. , between April and July 1994.
Some associations are waiting for the president to express, on behalf of France, “apologies” for the role played by Paris between 1990 and 1994. “Apologies cannot come at the request. They must be sincere. It is not for me, or anyone else, to ask for an apology, “said Paul Kagame in a recent interview with Le Monde.
A “damning” report
Previous president to have gone to Kigali in 2010, Nicolas Sarkozy had not gone so far: he had recognized “serious errors” and “a form of blindness” of the French authorities having had “absolutely dramatic” consequences .
Despite these statements, relations between Paris and Kigali have since remained difficult, going through phases of strong tensions.
Upon his arrival at the Élysée Palace, Emmanuel Macron relaunched the work of rapprochement, in particular by developing good relations with Paul Kagame, who presents himself as an African champion of the environment and digital technology.
After the election – with the support of Paris – of Rwandan Louise Mushikiwabo at the head of the International Organization of the Francophonie, a new step was taken with the submission in March of the report headed by historian Vincent Duclert on the role of France in the genocide.
This report concludes with the “heavy and overwhelming responsibilities” and with the “blindness” of the socialist president of the time François Mitterrand and of his entourage vis-a-vis the racist and genocidal drift of the Hutu government supported then Paris.
“I can put up with” these conclusions, which rule out the “complicity” of France, commented Paul Kagame, who in 1994 led the Tutsi rebellion that ended the genocide.
🔴 #Rwanda : the censored declaration of Michel Rocard on the role of France
It is an unpublished document, or at least curiously erased, that was able to obtain @Libe on the eve of a visit described as historic by Emmanuel Macron, Thursday, to Rwanda ⬇️ https://t.co/25A2TyLpGI
– Release (@libe) May 26, 2021
The French daily Liberation for its part published on Wednesday a written “deposition” by Michel Rocard, former Prime Minister of François Mitterrand, in which he criticized in 1998 French policy in Rwanda before and during the genocide of the Tutsi.
To achieve normalization, the two presidents could agree on the return of a French ambassador to Kigali, where the post has been vacant since 2015.
Another step will be the inauguration by Emmanuel Macron of the “Francophone cultural center” of Kigali, an establishment which “will aim to promote not only French culture but also all the resources of the Francophonie, in particular artists from the region”, according to the presidency.
Because, for Paris, it is a question of sending a global message of openness to African youth, who are struggling to be convinced of the will of the former colonial power to turn the page on “Françafrique”.
More open than his predecessors to English-speaking Africa, Emmanuel Macron is then expected in South Africa on Friday for a short visit focused on the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic and the economic crisis it causes.