Visiting French President Emmanuel Macron has recognised his country’s responsibilities in the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi during his speech at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the final resting place for more than 250,000 victims.
“As I stand with humility and respect at your side on this day, I come to recognize the magnitude of our responsibilities,” he said on Thursday, after laying a wreath for the victims at the memorial.
He also called on others, alongside France, to open all their archives during the period of the genocide, following a commission’s work that found out France bears the burden of “heavy responsibilities” in the genocide that claimed more than 1 million lives, mainly ethnic Tutsis, reports Xinhua news agency.
Vincent Duclert, head historian of the commission set up by Macron, presented its report to the latter in Paris in March, which was welcomed by the government of Rwanda, saying it “represents an important step toward a common understanding” of France’s role in the genocide.
“This journey of recognition, through our debts, our donations, offers us a hope to come out of this night and to walk together again. On this path, only those who have gone through the night can perhaps forgive, make us the gift of forgiving us,” he said, adding that youths from France and Rwanda can have a united alliance by not erasing anything from the past.
Macron arrived in Rwanda on Thursday morning for a two-day state visit.
This is the first visit by a sitting French President in 11 years to the central African nation.
The last visit was by then French President Nicolas Sarkozy in February 2010.
Macron’s visit was also the second visit of a French President since the genocide, which has caused damage to the relations between the two countries that used to be close.
During a joint press conference later in the day, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said the two nations are going to “relate much better” to the benefit of two peoples, politically, economically and culturally.
Macron’s statement made at the Kigali Genocide Memorial is “important” and “powerful” and that something “more valuable than an apology” as it told the truth, said Kagame.
He highly praised Macron’s speech as “an act of tremendous courage”, suggesting that the work of historical documentation must continue jointly.
While saying Macron’s visit is about the future, instead of the past, the President said Rwanda wishes to “form a strong and sustainable relationship” based on the priorities that matter to the both countries, including many issues discussed in their meeting, such as investment, digitization, gender equality, among others.
“Rwanda shall be a strong partner in all of these areas,” he said.
Upon his arrival at the Kigali International Airport, Macron was received by Rwandan Foreign Minister Vincent Biruta and other government officials.
Meanwhile, the Elysee Palace has that the French President will name an ambassador to Rwanda in a final step to normalize diplomatic relations between the two countries, a post that has been vacant since 2015.
A francophone cultural centre is also expected to be inaugurated by Macron after a seven-year closure.