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Rwandan president accuses France of role in the genocide

The French President has since released a statement.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide
Rwandan President Paul Kagame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide
Image: Ben Curtis/AP via Press Association Images

THE FRENCH PRESIDENT has released a statement after the Rwandan President took a swipe at France during the genocide commemorations today.

In a speech during commemorations marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide, President Paul Kagame said it was impossible to “change the facts” about the genocide.

He said, “The passage of time should not obscure the facts, lessen the responsibility, or turn victims into villains.

“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.

Rwanda Genocide Anniversary Source: AP/Press Association Images

Francois Hollande said in a statement that “France joins with the Rwandan people to honour the memories of all victims of the genocide.

The Rwandan genocide was one of the worst atrocities of our time. It was committed while the world watched and was unable to prevent it.

“We have a duty to do everything possible to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening again.

It concluded that:

The prevention of genocide has become a central part of France’s foreign policy.

Controversy

The anniversary has been marked by reminders of festering anger with a major diplomatic row breaking out over renewed allegations of French complicity in the genocide.

Paris had cancelled a ministerial visit in response to renewed accusations by Kagame, and the French ambassador was in turn barred from attending commemoration ceremonies today.

The Rwandan president had said in an interview prior to the commemorations that French soldiers, who helped train the Hutu nationalist-controlled Rwandan army prior to 1994 as well as being accused of aiding the killers to escape, were both accomplices and “actors” in the bloodbath.

An estimated 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis and some moderate Hutus, died in the killings.

At the commemoration, Kagame said, “Twenty years ago Rwanda had no future, only a past”

“Today we have a reason to celebrate the normal moments of life, that are easy for others to take for granted.

If the genocide reveals humanity’s shocking capacity for human cruelty, Rwanda’s choices show its capacity for renewal.

Rwanda Genocide Anniversary Source: AP/Press Association Images

Top-ranking former French officials have angrily rejected claims of complicity in Rwanda’s genocide.

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

The re-awakened accusations sparked widespread outrage in France.

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.”

Kagame’s FPR rebels overthrew the Hutu-led administration, and his party still controls the government, but many of those accused of the worst crimes of the war escaped, allegedly under the cover of the French military mission.

In 2008, a report by a Rwandan commission of inquiry concluded that France had trained the militias that carried out killings and French troops had taken part in massacres. It accused 13 politicians and 20 officers by name.

Before the latest row, relations between Kigali and Paris — which were completely frozen from 2006 to 2009 — had improved and France was taking steps to address a key criticism from Rwanda, its alleged sheltering of wanted genocide suspects.

In a landmark ruling last month, a French court sentenced former Rwandan army captain Pascal Simbikangwa to 25 years in prison for his role in the massacre.

Read: 20 Years On: Rwandans learn to live beside the men who killed their children>

- © AFP, 2014

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