these “steps forward” that can change everything

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Tout really started in February 2010 when President Sarkozy made an official trip to Rwanda, the first of a French head of state since the genocide in 1994. In April 2019, President Macron entrusted a research commission on French archives relating to Rwanda and the genocide of the Tutsi (1990-1994) with the mission of determine France’s role in the genocide in Rwanda. Led by the historian Vincent Duclert, hence its name of the Duclert Commission, on March 26, it submitted its report to the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron. In Kigali, this Friday, April 9, it was the president’s turn Paul Kagame to receive a copy of this report in person from the historian Vincent Duclert.

READ ALSOGenocide in Rwanda: what to remember from the Duclert report

Paul Kagame and Vincent Duclert on the same wavelength

President Paul Kagame and historian Vincent Duclert discussed the report’s findings for an hour. “I was very happy to be able to submit to President Paul Kagame the report of my team, of this research commission, which worked a lot to complete this scientific work, which was intended for the sponsor, President Emmanuel Macron but (.. .) also to other presidents, and particularly to President Paul Kagame, ”Vincent Duclert told several journalists after the interview.

Cited byAFP, the historian recalled the observation made by the report of the “overwhelming responsibilities of France, which did not understand anything, which did not measure the seriousness of its action in Rwanda, and which contributed to the genocidal process without the know “. And to specify that “what is established in the report, it is an overwhelming responsibility, and it is precisely what Paul Kagame and the Rwandans know”. “Basically we spoke the same language (with Paul Kagame), we spoke of the same facts,” he added. As in echo, Alain Juppé, French Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time of the genocide, for his part acknowledged in a column published on April 7 in the daily Le Monde that France had « not accomplished enough ». « We did not understand that genocide could not support half measures », he wrote. As a reminder, this genocide left more than 800,000 dead according to the UN, mainly Tutsi exterminated between April and July 1994.

On Wednesday, during the commemoration ceremonies for the 27th anniversary of the genocide, President Kagame welcomed the findings of the report, calling it “an important step forward”. For his part, the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta welcomed this Friday the Duclert report which, he said, “will bring something important to the understanding of the past”. “If you understand the past well, it means that you can build a future together,” he added.

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READ ALSODuclert report on Rwanda: all the reactions

In the wake of the “step forward” initiated by President Nicolas Sarkozy

In its desire to start again on new bases and “to build a future together”, Paris announced on Wednesday the opening to the general public of important archives, in particular those of the former socialist president François Mitterrand in power at the time. of genocide. This decision is basically in line with the logic of relaxation and “step forward” initiated by President Nicolas Sarkozy during his visit to Rwanda which began on February 25, 2010, three months after the official resumption of diplomatic relations between the two. country. Nicolas Sarkozy was indeed the first French head of state to pay an official visit to Rwanda since the genocide of the Tutsi. Goal : seal the reconciliation between France and Rwanda after years of quarrel.

At the beginning of his visit, accompanied by the Rwandan ministers of foreign affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, and of culture, Joseph Habineza, Nicolas Sarkozy had first observed a minute of silence in front of one of the fourteen mass graves of the memorial, where are buried the bodies of over two hundred and fifty thousand victims. He had laid a wreath there.

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With his delegation, which included the then head of French diplomacy, Bernard Kouchner, President Sarkozy then visited the memorial museum for twenty minutes, a museum that traces the history of Rwanda from Belgian colonization to the genocide , which caused more than 800,000 deaths (according to the UN), the vast majority of which were Tutsi, and the coming to power of President Paul Kagame. To properly situate the political will that prevailed in this process, it must be remembered that at that time, the role of France was strongly the subject of intense controversy, which did not prevent the president French at the time to appeal to the international community.

During the joint press conference held with President Kagame in February 2010, when he was silent when the guide of the Kigali Genocide Memorial Museum had arrested him, Nicolas Sarkozy said: « What happened here is a defeat for humanity. What happened here has left an indelible mark. (…) What happened here forces the international community, including France, to reflect on its mistakes which prevented it from preventing and stopping this appalling crime ”. He added: “We must see further, to organize reconciliation. Errors of assessment, political errors have been made here and have had absolutely dramatic consequences. We want those responsible for the genocide to be found and punished. There is no ambiguity. I told President Kagame, those who did this, wherever they are, must be found and punished ”. “Are there any in France? It is up to justice to say so. We have just refused political asylum to one of the people concerned, and there are legal proceedings initiated, ”he continued. In conclusion, he said: « We will try to build a bilateral relationship where we will explore a new way to help each other. France wants to help Rwanda and we are going to build political, economic and cultural cooperation ”.

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READ ALSOFrance has “heavy responsibilities” in the genocide in Rwanda

And now ?

Eleven years later, as if to echo this wish of President Sarkozy, the French presidency under the mandate of Emmanuel Macron indicated “hope that this report can lead to other developments in (the) relationship with Rwanda” and that, “this time, the approach of rapprochement could be initiated in an irreversible manner”. And to suggest that, in this context, the return of a French ambassador to Kigali “in the coming months” would be “an additional step” towards normalization “. To strengthen this dynamic, the French Presidency addressed the sensitive issue of the prosecution of those responsible for genocide. “France will continue its efforts in the fight against the impunity of those responsible for crimes of genocide”, indicated a press release from the Elysee.

It should in fact be known that if a certain number of genocide planners, sponsors or killers were convicted in Rwanda, by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), and abroad, many continue to escape justice. . To date, Kigali has sent at least 48 extradition requests to France, the first European country before Belgium (40 requests). There is no doubt. Paris is stepping up initiatives for the fastest possible reconciliation and Kigali seems to appreciate them at their true value. After affirming that this report which points to the heavy and overwhelming responsibilities of France marked “a change”, President Kagame hailed it as showing ” a desire, even among the leaders in France, to move forward with a good understanding of what happened ”. “Rwanda will also have a say with its own report on the subject,” he added. Scheduled to be unveiled in April, its content will say a lot about the atmosphere that should accompany cooperation between France and Rwanda in the near future.

READ ALSOGenocide in Rwanda: France opens important archives to the public

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