France pulls out of Rwanda geno­cide com­mem­o­ra­tions

Daily Trust - - AFRICA -

The French govern­ment has an­nounced that it is pulling out of the 20th an­niver­sary com­mem­o­ra­tions on Mon­day for the Rwan­dan geno­cide.

The de­ci­sion fol­lows an ac­cu­sa­tion by the Rwan­dan Pres­i­dent, Paul Kagame, that France par­tic­i­pated in the mass killings in 1994.

Mr Kagame has pre­vi­ously made sim­i­lar al­le­ga­tions, which France has de­nied.

The French for­eign min­istry said the re­marks went against rec­on­cil­i­a­tion ef­forts be­tween the two coun­tries.

French Jus­tice Min­is­ter Chris­tiane Taubira has can­celled her plans to at­tend the events in Ki­gali on Mon­day, for­eign min­istry spokesman Ro­main Nadal says.

Speak­ing to the French­language weekly news mag­a­zine Je­une Afrique, Mr Kagame de­nounced the “di­rect role of Bel­gium and France in the po­lit­i­cal prepa­ra­tion for the geno­cide”. Rwanda was a Bel­gian colony un­til 1962.

BBC Africa’s Kas­sim Kayira ex­plains the events that shook Rwanda in 1994

In the in­ter­view, due to be pub­lished on Sun­day but car­ried out on 27 March, Mr Kagame is quoted as say­ing that, 20 years on, “the only plau­si­ble re­proach in [France’s] eyes is in not hav­ing done enough to save lives dur­ing the geno­cide”.

It comes as Rwanda pre­pares to mark the 20th an­niver­sary of the atroc­i­ties that claimed at least 800,000 lives - mostly eth­nic Tut­sis and mod­er­ate Hu­tus - over a pe­riod of about 100 days.

The vi­o­lence was trig­gered by the death of Pres­i­dent Ju­ve­nal Hab­ya­ri­mana, an eth­nic Hutu who was killed in a plane crash on 6 April 1994.

It came to an end af­ter Mr Kagame’s Rwan­dan Pa­tri­otic Front (RPF) - a Tutsi-led rebel group - de­feated govern­ment troops in July that year.

His party still con­trols the govern­ment and has long ac­cused France - an ally of Mr Hab­ya­ri­mana’s govern­ment at the time - of aiding the geno­cide.

In re­cent years there has been a thaw in re­la­tions be­tween the two coun­tries, with a visit by Mr Kagame to Paris in 2011 and the es­tab­lish­ment by France of a geno­cide in­ves­ti­ga­tion unit.

Last month, a Paris court sen­tenced for­mer Rwan­dan spy chief Pas­cal Sim­bikangwa to 25 years in jail for his role in the geno­cide - the first such con­vic­tion in France.

France has ac­knowl­edged that se­ri­ous er­rors were made dur­ing the geno­cide in Rwanda.

A Rwan­dan com­mis­sion in 2008 said France was aware of prepa­ra­tions for the geno­cide and helped train eth­nic Hutu mili­tias who par­tic­i­pated in killings.

Paris said its forces helped pro­tect civil­ians as part of a UN-man­dated in­ter­ven­tion in Rwanda. But Mr Kagame said French troops had pro­tected the mili­tias car­ry­ing out the killings. BBC

Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame

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