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France snubs Rwandan genocide commemorations

© AFP

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-04-06

France said on Saturday it will not attend commemorations to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide after President Paul Kagame (pictured) renewed accusations that Paris participated in the 1994 mass killings.

Foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said France was "surprised" by Kagame's accusation, which went against reconciliation efforts between the two countries, and announced that Justice Minister Christiane Taubira would not attend Monday's commemorations in Kigali.

"France regrets that it cannot take part in the 20th anniversary commemorations for the genocide," he said.

Earlier Saturday, Kagame had accused both France and Belgium of playing a “direct role” in the “political preparation” of the genocide, which saw an estimated 800,000 mainly ethnic Tutsis killed.

Speaking to the weekly “Jeune Afrique”, published on Sunday, he also accused French soldiers who took part in a military humanitarian mission in the south of the former Belgian colony of being both accomplices and "actors" in the bloodbath.

Kagame has previously made similar claims about France’s role in the 100-day wave of genocidal killings, which began on 7 April 1994.

Paris has repeatedly denied involvement in the genocide, despite a 2008 finding by Rwanda's MUCYO commission of inquiry that concluded France had trained the militias that carried out killings, and French troops had taken part in massacres.

Kagame's FPR rebels overthrew the Hutu-led administration, and his party still controls the government, but many of those accused of the worst crimes of the war escaped, allegedly under the cover of the French military mission.

"Twenty years later, the only thing you can say against them (the French) in their eyes is they didn't do enough to save lives during the genocide," Kagame told "Jeune Afrique".

"That's a fact, but it hides the main point: the direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation of the genocide and the participation of the latter in its very execution."

Improving relations

Kagame's assertions come as relations between Kigali and Paris - which were completely frozen from 2006 to 2009 - have improved, notably since France last month, in a landmark ruling, sentenced former Rwandan army captain Pascal Simbikangwa to 25 years in prison for his role in the massacre.

Kagame, however, was scathing about the Simbikangwa sentence. "We'll see what becomes of this sentence on appeal," he said.

"I don't think it is a particularly positive development. For one criminal condemned 20 years on, how many criminals has the French justice system conjured away? They don't take us in with their little game. This sentence is made out to be a gesture, almost like a favour that France has accorded Rwanda, while it is France's role in the genocide that should be being examined."

In 2004, on the 10th anniversary of the genocide, Kagame lashed out at France in his commemoration speech at Amahoro Stadium, saying that Paris knew that the ethnic Hutu government, the army and militia were preparing the genocide.

Renaud Muselier, then secretary of state for foreign affairs who was leading the French delegation in 2004, cut short his visit after the ceremony.

In "Jeune Afrique" Kagame also had a dig at Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders.

"I think he has committed a number of errors," Kagame said, "notably by associating himself with anti-Rwandan manoeuvres carried out from Tanzania. I feel that his position lacks balance, for subjective reasons of which I know nothing."

Relations between Rwanda and Tanzania have been strained for the better part of a year ever since Tanzania urged Rwanda to negotiate with a group of Rwandan Hutu rebels operating in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Kigali said such a demand was unacceptable as some of the rebels were among the perpetrators of the genocide.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

Date created : 2014-04-05

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