KIGALI (Agencies): French President Emmanuel Macron recognizes his country’s role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, from backing a genocidal regime to ignoring warnings of the impending massacres.
Macron kicks off a highly symbolic visit to Rwanda after three decades of diplomatic tensions, with a tour of the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where he pays tribute to some 800,000 mostly Tutsis who were slaughtered in the killings.
“Standing here today, with humility and respect, by your side, I have come to recognize our responsibilities,” Macron says in a speech at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
He also called on others, alongside France, to open all their archives during the period of the genocide, following a commission’s work that found out France bears the burden of “heavy responsibilities” in the genocide that claimed more than 1 million lives, mainly ethnic Tutsis.
“This journey of recognition, through our debts, our donations, offers us a hope to come out of this night and to walk together again. On this path, only those who have gone through the night can perhaps forgive, make us the gift of forgiving us,” he said, adding that youths from France and Rwanda can have a united alliance by not erasing anything from the past.
His highly anticipated speech doesn’t contain a formal apology, but he goes further than his predecessors and says that only those who had survived the horrors “can maybe forgive, give us the gift of forgiveness.”
Rwandan President Paul Kagame hails Macron’s speech, speaking to reporters after the two leaders meet.
“His words were something more valuable than an apology. They were the truth,” Kagame says.
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 says 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 recognize the suffering she has inflicted on the Rwandan people by too long valuing silence over the examination of the truth.”