French President, Emmanuel Macron has publicly acknowledged France’s role in the 1994 genocide of Rwandans but stopped short of apologizing.
In a statement on Thursday, May 27, following a visit to the Gisozi memorial in the Rwandan capital Kigali, Macron acknowledged France’s “overwhelming responsibility” in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and said only the survivors could give “the gift of forgiveness.”
“France did not understand that, while trying to prevent a regional conflict, or a civil war, it was in fact standing by the side of a genocidal regime,”
Macron’s admission is strongest public admission of responsibility from a French leader till date.
“By doing so, it endorsed an overwhelming responsibility,”
“On this path, only those who went through the night can, maybe, forgive us, give us the gift of forgiveness,” Macron concluded.
Rwandan President Kagame praised French President Macron’s speech, saying it was a “major step” in the relationship between the two countries.
“France and Rwanda are going to relate much better, to the benefit of both our people,” Kagame said, even if “the relationship between the two countries will never be entirely conventional.”
Macron’s words “were something more valuable than an apology: they were the truth,” Kagame added.
“Politically and morally, this was an act of tremendous courage,” Kagame said.
While the French president said his country was “not complicit” in the genocide because killers were not French, he vowed that “no suspected genocide perpetrator will be able to avoid justice” because “recognizing our past is also – and above all else – continuing the work of justice.”
Relations between France and Rwanda have long been overshadowed by France’s involvement in the genocide.
In 1994, around 800,000 mainly ethnic Tutsis were killed by Hutu militias supported by the Rwandan government. France had been accused of supporting the Hutu regime.