Macron asks for forgiveness for France’s role in Rwandan genocide

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France bears an “overwhelming responsibility” for the Rwandan government’s 1994 genocide of Tutsi and moderate Hutu people during the Rwandan Civil War, France’s president said Thursday.

Multiple news sources reported that Emmanuel Macron stated France’s culpability in aiding the Rwandan majority-Hutu government in the months leading up to the genocide, as well as the country’s failure to act when the killings began. He stopped short, however, of apologizing for the killings, and stressed that France was “not an accomplice” to the Hutu extremists who carried them out.

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“I have to come to recognize our responsibilities,” he said during a visit to Rwanda Thursday, according to The Associated Press.

“France has a role, a history and a political responsibility in Rwanda. It has a duty: That of looking history in the face and recognizing the suffering that it inflicted on the Rwandan people by favoring silence over the examination of truth for too long,” the president continued.

Macron also added that “a genocide cannot be excused, one lives with it,” according to the AP, in an apparent explanation for his lack of a formal apology in his speech.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame reportedly praised Macron’s remarks, calling them “more valuable than an apology, they were the truth.”

“This was an act of tremendous courage,” said Kagame, according to the AP.

The French president’s visit coincided with his government’s donation of 100,000 COVID-19 vaccines to the African nation, which has vaccinated just over 1 percent of its total population, according to Reuters.

French-Rwandan relations have been strained since the 1994 genocide, which ended after a majority-Tutsi rebel faction defeated the Hutu extremist government and drove the genocide perpetrators into the neighboring Congo, then known as Zaire. The majority Tutsi government established in the months after the war’s end held France responsible for aiding the deposed Hutu extremists, and in particular accused French forces of training the same militias who carried out many of the killings.

One survivor of the 1996 genocide told the AP that Macron’s speech Thursday was disappointing.

“We don’t want to hear him talk about responsibility, about France’s role in the genocide,” Dan Karenzi said. “We, the survivors, wanted to hear Macron apologizing to us officially. I am really disappointed.”

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