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Admitting Role & Responsibility…

Time and again, France has admitted its mistakes at the global stage, thus, showcasing its rich Democratic Culture. Paris has done the same, yet again! President Emmanuel Macron recently sought forgiveness over Rwandan Genocide, saying that he recognised France’s role in it and hoped for forgiveness. He apologised to Rwanda while attending an event at a memorial in Kigali on May 27. The visiting president also assured the East African nation that Paris would soon reset bilateral ties. Over the years, Rwanda has been accusing France of triggering the 1994 atrocities.

After visiting the Gisozi Genocide Memorial where more than 250,000 victims are buried, the French President stressed: “Only those, who went through that night, can perhaps forgive, and in doing so give the gift of forgiveness.” Macron added: “I hereby humbly and with respect stand by your side today, I come to recognise the extent of our responsibilities.” It may be noted that rows of skulls are lying there in a mass tomb and the names of the victims are mentioned on a black wall. Meanwhile, Rwandan President Paul Kagame welcomed his French counterpart’s gesture, stating that “his words were more powerful than an apology”.

The Genocide Speech

Earlier in April (2021), President Macron decided to open the Rwanda Archives of former French President Francois Mitterrand, who was in office during the genocide. Later, Rwanda released a report, mentioning that France was well aware of the fact that a genocide was being prepared and bore responsibility for enabling it. The Paul Kagame Administration also accused Paris of supporting then President of Rwanda Juvenal Habyarimana. Speaking at a joint press conference with President Kagame, President Macron stated: “I hereby humbly and with respect stand by your side today, I come to recognise the extent of our responsibilities.

The Rwandan Genocide had taken place between April 7 and July 15, 1994 during a Civil War. In those 100 days, armed militias slaughtered members of the Tutsi minority ethnic group and moderate Hutu and Twa communities. According to most widely accepted scholarly reports, around 500,000 to 800,000 Tutsi people perished in the genocide. Meanwhile, the total death toll (including Hutu and Twa victims) were as high as 1,074,107.

President Macron with President Kagame

Earlier in 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a rebel group composed mostly of Tutsi refugees, had invaded the northern part of Rwanda from their base in Uganda, triggering the Rwandan Civil War. Although neither side managed to gain a decisive advantage in the war, then President of Rwanda Juvénal Habyarimana had signed the Arusha Accords with the RPF on August 4, 1993 to restore peace. A number of historians are of the opinion that the genocide against the Tutsi was a well planned venture. However, President Habyarimana’s assassination on April 6, 1994 created a power vacuum and ended the peace accords. Genocidal killings started the following day, as soldiers, police and militia executed key Tutsi and moderate Hutu military and political leaders.

The scale and brutality of the genocide had shocked the Global Community. However, no country intervened to forcefully stop the killings. Documents suggest that most of the victims were killed in their own villages or towns by their neighbours and fellow villagers. Hutu gangs searched out victims, hiding in churches and school buildings, and murdered them with machetes and rifles. Sexual violence, too, took place, as an estimated 250,000 to 500,000 women were raped during the genocide. The RPF immediately resumed the Civil War after the genocide started and captured all government territory, ending the genocide and forcing the government and genocidaires into Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo). In 1996, the RPF-led Rwandan Government launched an offensive into Congo, home to exiled leaders of the former Rwandan Government and many Hutu refugees, triggering the First Congo War and killing an estimated 200,000 people. International Day of Reflection on the Rwandan Genocide is observed globally on April 7, every year.

Ibuka, the country’s main genocide survivor group, said that it was disappointed, as no one “presented a clear apology”. Egide Nkuranga, the President of the association, stressed that President Macron did not “ask forgiveness”, but he “really tried to explain the genocide, how it happened, what they didn’t do, their responsibilities… It’s very important, it shows that he understands us”.

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