Macron seeks forgiveness over Rwanda genocide
KIGALI, May 27: French President Emmanuel Macron said he recognised his country's role in the Rwandan genocide and hoped for forgiveness at a memorial in Kigali on Thursday, seeking to reset relations after years of Rwandan accusations that France was complicit in the 1994 atrocities.
While Macron did not formally apologise, he highlighted how France had backed the genocidal Hutu regime of the time, ignored warnings of impending massacres and joined the world in abandoning some 800,000 mostly Tutsi Rwandans to a grisly fate.
"Standing here today, with humility and respect, by your side, I have come to recognise our responsibilities," Macron said in a speech at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
He said that only those who had survived the horrors can "give us the gift of forgiveness".
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who called Macron his "friend", heaped praise on the speech at a joint press conference after the two leaders met.
"His words were something more valuable than an apology. They were the truth," Kagame said.
"Speaking the truth is risky. But you do it because it is right, even when it costs you something, even when it is unpopular."
Macron is the first French leader since 2010 to visit the East African nation, which has long accused France of complicity in the killings.
Macron said France "was not complicit" in the genocide.
"But France has a role, a story and a political responsibility to Rwanda. She has a duty: to face history head-on and recognise the suffering she has inflicted on the Rwandan people by too long valuing silence over the examination of the truth."
Egide Nkuranga, president of the main survivors' association Ibuka, told AFP he was disappointed that Macron did not "present a clear apology on behalf of the French state" or "ask for forgiveness".
However he said Macron "really tried to explain the genocide and France's responsibility. It is very important. It shows that he understands us."
The genocide between April and July of 1994 began after Rwanda's Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana, with whom Paris had cultivated close ties, was killed when his plane was shot down over Kigali on April 6.
Within a few hours extremist Hutu militia began slaughtering Tutsis, and some moderate Hutus, with a scale and brutality that shocked the world.
Victims were felled with machetes, shot, or massacred while seeking shelter in churches and schools, while sexual violence was rife. -AFP