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February 24, 2010

French Leader in Rwanda for 1st Time Since 1994 Genocide

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has acknowledged that France and the rest of the world made mistakes in failing to prevent Rwanda's 1994 genocide, but he stopped short of apologizing.

Mr. Sarkozy told reporters in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, Thursday that France and other nations were "blinded" in their failure to see the genocidal aspect of the government that orchestrated the killings.

The French president spoke after holding talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame and visiting the genocide museum and memorial, where he paid homage to the victims.

His one-day visit is the first by a French leader since Rwanda's 1994 genocide.  The two nations are trying to repair diplomatic ties after a three-year breakdown.

Rwanda has accused France of aiding the perpetrators of the genocide, in which some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutu moderates were killed.  France denies the charge.

Rwanda broke off relations with France in 2006, after a French judge issued arrest warrants for nine advisers of Mr. Kagame.  The judge accused the advisers of helping to plot the assassination of Mr. Kagame's predecessor, Juvenal Habyarimana, at the start of the genocide.

Relations were restored late last year.

The French leader also has been to Gabon and Mali during this two-day tour of Africa.

On Wednesday in Mali, Mr. Sarkozy met with a Frenchman who was held hostage by an al-Qaida group for three months.  The French president told Mali it could count on France's support in the fight against terrorists.

The French aid worker, Pierre Camatte, was set free this week after Mali released four Islamist militants in an apparent prisoner swap with the group al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

 

Some information for this report was provided by AFP.