France’s Rwanda Debacle: Macron Gives ‚Silence Over Genocide‘ Speech in Kigali

Written by | Friday, May 28th, 2021

France bears a “terrible responsibility” for the deaths of estimated 800,000 people in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, President Emmanuel Macron said on Thursday (27 May), in a long-anticipated speech in Kigali, the capital of the east African country. Speaking at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where 250,000 victims of the massacres are buried, Macron also said that although France had not been complicit in the tragedy, he “recognized the suffering” France had inflicted on Rwanda at the very least by having made errors of judgment that had appalling consequences. “France has a role, a history and a political responsibility in Rwanda,” he said. “It has a duty: that of looking history in the face and recognizing the suffering that it inflicted on the Rwandan people by favouring silence over the examination of truth for too long.”
In the short speech that was addressed mainly to the survivors of the disaster, the French President also slammed the international community for taking „close to three months, three interminable months, before reacting and we, all of us, abandoned hundreds of thousands of victims.” France’s failures contributed to “27 years of bitter distance” between the two countries, he said. Macron is on a state visit in the Rwandan capital where he also held talks with the country‘s President Paul Kagame. His visit is highly symbolic and builds on a series of French efforts, since his election in 2017, to repair ties between the two countries after three decades of diplomatic tensions over France’s role in the genocide.
The victims of the genocide were mainly the minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus, who tried to protect them from Hutu extremists. Two recent reports that examined France’s role in the genocide helped clear a path for Macron’s visit, the first by a French president in 11 years. Rwanda’s government and genocide survivor organizations often accused France of training and arming militias and former government troops who led the genocide. Even Paul Kagame, who himself has repeatedly accused France of aiding the genocide, indicated earlier this year that relations between Paris and Kigali were improving. Kagame has been in power since the age of 36, when his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel army routed the genocidal regime and seized Kigali. The 63-year-old Rwandan President has won international praise for the stability and economic development he has brought to his country, but has also been accused of running an authoritarian, one-party state.

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