SHARE
COPY LINK

RWANDA

Rwanda lashes out at France over genocide

Rawanda's president took a swipe at French leaders on Monday during a speech commemorating the 1994 genocide, reigniting the controversy over the France's role in the killing that claimed 800,000 lives. His words drew an angry response from Paris.

Rwanda lashes out at France over genocide
France's ambassador was barred from Rwanda's genocide memorial events. Photo: Simon Maina/AFP

Rwandan President Paul Kagame took a thinly-veiled swipe at France on Monday, saying it was impossible to "change the facts" about the genocide 20 years ago.

"The passage of time should not obscure the facts, lesson the responsibility, or turn victims into villains," he said in a speech during commemorations marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide.

"People cannot be bribed or forced into changing their history, and no country is powerful enough, even when they think they are, to change the facts… After all, les faits sont tetus (facts are facts)," he said, saying the final phrase in French and drawing loud applause in the national stadium.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo also said France had to face up to the "difficult truth" over its involvement.

Those words lead to angry responses from top ranking French officials.

Edouard Balladur of the centre-right UMP, prime minister at the time of the killings, said Kagame "is constantly seeking to accuse France when he himself has not, after 20 years, been able to bring together the Rwandan people.

"France is in no way complicit in the genocide. On the contrary, it of all countries in the world was the only one that took the initiative to organise a humanitarian operation to prevent widespread massacres," he told Europe 1 radio.

General Jean-Claude Lafourcade, the former commander of Operation Turquoise, the French military mission in Rwanda, also rejected the accusations.

"I find Mr. Kagame's accusations unfounded and unfair – they completely tarnish this day of commemoration for a global human tragedy," he told RTL radio.

Noting that French forces arrived at the end of June 1994, when "90 percent of the massacres" had already been committed, Lafourcade said: "Not a single French soldier was in Rwanda during the genocide."

Earlier in the day, in a sign of the tensions between the two countries French ambassador to Rwanda had been barred from attending events marking the two-decade anniversary of the killing that claimed 800,000 lives, amid a major diplomatic row surrounding France's controversial role in the events of 1994.

"Yesterday night the Rwandan foreign ministry telephoned to inform me that I was no longer accredited for the ceremonies," the French ambassador, Michel Flesch, told AFP.

French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira pulled out of attending Monday's events after Rwandan President Paul Kagame repeated his accusation of French "participation" in the murder of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis.

France has repeatedly denied any complicity in the genocide. The French helped train the Hutu nationalist-controlled Rwandan army prior to 1994 have also been accused of aiding the killers to escape 

Although choosing not to send a minister, France had said its ambassador would attend — a major diplomatic downgrading of its attendance.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo on Sunday told France to face up to the "difficult truth" over its actions two decades ago.

"For our two countries to really start getting along, we will have to face the truth, the truth is difficult, the truth of being close to anybody who is associated with genocide understandably is a very difficult truth to accept," Mushikiwabo said.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

RWANDA

Macron proposes day of commemoration for Rwanda genocide

French President Emmanuel Macron proposed an annual day of commemoration for the Rwanda genocide on Sunday as the African nation marked 25 years since the massacres of the minority Tutsi community.

Macron proposes day of commemoration for Rwanda genocide
African Union chief Moussa Faki, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker at 25th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide in Kigali, Rwanda on April 7. Photo: Y
The French leader expressed his “solidarity with the Rwandan people and his compassion for the victims and their families” in a statement that proposed April 7 as an annual remembrance day in France.
 
Macron drew criticism from some activists for failing to attend the start of commemoration events in Rwanda on Sunday, instead sending a personal envoy, a Rwandan-born MP Herve Berville who was orphaned in the 1993 violence.
 
A Rwandan victims' group, Ibuka France, hailed Macron's announcement of a national Rwanda genocide day and said it had suggested the idea during a meeting with the 41-year-old leader last week.
 
“My reaction is one of satisfaction,” the head of the group, Marcel Kabanda, said before adding that he hoped France would now introspect more about its role in the massacres.
 
“It's not the French population fundamentally, but the political elite that needs to talk about it more. It will take time but it's a new phase,” he told AFP.
 
READ ALSO: 
The genocide has cast a long shadow over Franco-Rwandan relations. Rwanda's current President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, accuses France of having supported the ethnic Hutu forces behind most of the slaughter and of helping some of the perpetrators to escape.
 
On Friday, Macron announced the creation of a commission of historians and researchers that will delve into the French state's archives in a move intended to set the historical record straight.
SHOW COMMENTS