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Macron admits to French guilt over role in 1994 Rwandan genocide

The French president stopped short of an apology but recognised that France bears ‘an overwhelming responsibility’ for the killing of 800,000 people.

Image: PA

IN A KEY speech on his visit to Rwanda, the French president, Emmanuel Macron, said he recognises that France bears a heavy responsibility for the 1994 genocide in the central African country.

Macron solemnly detailed how France had failed the 800,000 victims of the genocide but he stopped short of an apology.

France “was not an accomplice” in the genocide but ended up siding with Rwanda’s “genocidal regime” and bore an “overwhelming responsibility” in the slide toward the massacres, the French leader said, speaking today at the genocide memorial in the capital, Kigali.

“France has a role, a history and a political responsibility in Rwanda. It has a duty: That of looking history in the face and recognising the suffering that it inflicted on the Rwandan people by favouring silence over the examination of truth for too long,” Macron said.

When the genocide started, “the international community took 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.

“I have to come to recognise our responsibilities,” Macron said.

Although Macron did not apologise, he won praise from Rwandan President Paul Kagame for his “powerful speech”.

“His words were something more valuable than an apology, they were the truth,” Kagame said. “This was an act of tremendous courage.”

Kagame and Macron both signalled that a page had been turned in France-Rwanda ties.

“This visit is about the future, not the past,” Kagame said, adding that he and Macron discussed a range of issues, including investment and support for businesses.

Macron said they were opening “a new page”.

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Appearing to explain his lack of apology, Macron said: “A genocide cannot be excused, one lives with it.”

Macron said that he had come with 100,000 coronavirus vaccines for Rwanda.

Macron arrived in Kigali early today and met Kagame at the presidential residence.

Macron then toured the memorial to the frenzied 1994 slaughter in which Hutu extremists killed mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus who tried to protect them.

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