France and Rwanda aim to definitively turn the page on a quarter century of tensions when President Emmanuel Macron visits Kigali on Thursday to commemorate the victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Macron’s trip, the first by a French leader since 2010, follows a quarter-century of diplomatic tension between the two countries over France’s role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Years of mutual finger-pointing came to an abrupt halt in March when a commission appointed by Macron returned a damning indictment of France’s role in the bloodshed.
In findings accepted by the French government, the historians accused Paris, which had close ties to the ethnic Hutu regime behind the massacres, of being “blind” to preparations for the genocide and said it bore “serious and overwhelming” responsibility.
The commission found no proof, however, of French complicity in the bloodshed.
For Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who led the Tutsi rebellion that ended the genocide and had led the charge against France ever since, the report was a game-changer.
On a visit to France last week, Kagame, who at one point broke off relations with France, said the report had paved the way for France and Rwanda to have “a good relationship.”
Ahead of Macron’s visit to Kigali, both sides have spoken enthusiastically of a “normalisation” of ties.
French officials say Macron could also use the visit to name an ambassador to Rwanda, filling a post left vacant since 2015.
But some in Rwanda want France to go further in facing up to the past and officially apologise for failing to help stop the killing of 800,000 Rwandans between April and July 1994.