French President Emmanuel Macron has acknowledged his country’s role in the Rwandan genocide and said he hoped an apology would be offered at Kigali’s memorial because he sought to restore ties years after accusing France of complicity in the 1991 atrocities.
“Only those who have gone through the night can forgive and in doing so give the gift of forgiveness,” Mr Macron said on Thursday at the Jizoji Massacre Memorial in Kigali, where more than 2,250,000 victims are buried.
“I stand here on your side with humility and respect today. I know the extent of our responsibility.”
Mr. Macron’s highly anticipated speech did not formally apologize, but he went further than his predecessors.
The visit follows the release of a report by a French investigative panel in March, which said that the colonial approach had blinded French officials and the blind. The government assumed “serious and heavy” responsibility for not looking ahead to the massacre.
Although the report freed France from the direct complication of the killing of more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus – Mr Macron said in his speech.
“The swamp, the mountain, the church, etc., were not the face of the murderer of France. France had no friends,” he said.
Following the speech, Rwandan President Paul Kagame told reporters Macron’s words were “more valuable than an apology.” “Because they were true,” he said.
Mr Kagame had said last week that France had taken part in the massacre, adding that the report was of great significance to Rwandans.
France can “forget but forgive” Rwandans for their role, Mr Kagame, a key figure in Tutsi and Rwandan politics, said his rebel army ended the killings with a death sentence loyal to the Hutu-led government.
Mr Macron, who sought to distance France from the colonial past, agreed in April to open the Rwanda archives of Mitrand, the former French president responsible for the genocide.
Soon after, Rwanda released its report that France knew that a genocide was being planned and was responsible for enabling it, and continued to support then-Rwandan President Juvenal Haberimana.
It is the shooting down of a Habirimana plane and killing the president who ended the 100-day frenzy.
“French authorities have armed, advised, trained, equipped and protected the Rwandan government,” the report said, adding that France had covered up its role for years.
On Friday, Elise Palace said Mr Macron would name a new ambassador to Rwanda, the first recognized French ambassador since 201.
The streets of Kigali were quiet on Thursday, often without any banners or flags accompanying the high-level tour.
The French leader last visited Rwanda in 2010.
From Rwanda, Mr Macron will travel to South Africa, where he will meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa on COVID-1 and regional tours, including one in Mozambique.