Tags: Rwanda | France | genocide | peace

Rwanda, France Make Peace Over '94 Genocide

Friday, 26 February 2010 11:28 AM

KIGALI – French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Rwanda has opened a chapter of reconciliation, even if many Rwandans say they are still waiting for France to apologise for its role in the 1994 genocide.

Relations between the two nations, already strained, were broken off by Rwanda in 2006 after a French anti-terrorist judge issued warrants for nine officials close to President Paul Kagame, accusing them of implication in the April 6, 1994 assassination of former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana.

Kigali for its part accuses Paris of having played a role in the genocide of the Tutsis, notably by backing the Habyarimana regime.

"For us there is no doubt that this is reconciliation. That said, there are still some very tough issues to discuss. I think President Sarkozy is sincere. For us that is the main thing," Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said in an interview with AFP late Thursday.

Mushikiwabo on Thursday accompanied the French leader to Kigali's main genocide memorial where he "paid homage in the name of the French people" to the victims of the genocide.

Sarkozy, who did not occupy a key post in 1994, admitted that his country had "grossly misjudged" the situation that led up to the killing of at least 800,000 people, mainly from Kagame's Tutsi minority.

He said that France, which wielded great influence in pre-genocide Rwanda, and the rest of the world were "blinded" when they "failed to see the genocidal dimension of the government" that orchestrated the killing.

He however stopped short of offering an apology for his country's role.

Kigali adopted a conciliatory tone.

"It's not for Rwanda to dictate to France the timing, the tone or the substance of an apology. France needs to examine its conscience. We're not setting any deadline. It's much more important we talk to each other frankly," Mushikiwabo said.

"I think we've taken a big step forward in the relations between our two countries since President Sarkozy came to power," she added.

"Today Rwanda is active in commercial and economic diplomacy. In our relations with all our partners we seek projects that can improve the living standards of Rwandans."

The pro-government New Times daily also hailed Sarkozy's landmark visit.

"The admission by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that 'serious errors of judgment' were made by his country in relation to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, opens a new chapter in the diplomatic relations between the two countries," the newspaper said.

It also welcomed the fact that Sarkozy, whose country has been repeatedly accused by Kigali of harbouring key genocide suspects, stressed he wanted to see those responsible for the massacres brought to justice.

"His statement should indeed give the (murderers) sleepless nights," the New Times said in its editorial.

"The rupture was not in anyone's interest. It's not in our interest to have bad relations," the senator and ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front member Antoine Mugesera told AFP.

He said he would have liked to have seen a more complete admission of guilt by Sarkozy.

Theodore Simburudali, who heads the genocide survivors' association Ibuka, also welcomed the visit and also insisted France's mea culpa was incomplete and urged Sarkozy to "call things by their rightful name and explicitly recognise the direct role France played in the genocide".

"We are waiting for that gesture; I hope it will come one day."

Simburudali argued that the resumption of development cooperation was "a very good thing, but it's not the essential, for one cannot turn the page on the genocide with acts of charity or cooperation".

The visit was the first by a French head of state since the 1994 genocide.

Copyright © 2010 AFP. All rights reserved.

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KIGALI – French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Rwanda has opened a chapter of reconciliation, even if many Rwandans say they are still waiting for France to apologise for its role in the 1994 genocide.
Friday, 26 February 2010 11:28 AM
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