News / Africa

Rwanda, France Try to Mend Ties Haunted By Painful Past

French President Nicolas Sarkozy made the first visit to Rwanda by a French head of state since the 1994 genocide.  The president admitted mistakes were made by France and the international community, but stopped short of directly apologizing for his nation's conduct surrounding the bloody events.  France hopes to turn a new page in relations with Rwanda remain overshadowed by a troubled past.

Last year France and Rwanda officially restored diplomatic ties, three years after Rwandan President Paul Kagame abruptly ordered the French ambassador out of his country.

Relations between the two nations had been tense for years, but charges issued against nine of his aides by a French judge during a genocide inquiry in 2006 were apparently the final straw for the Rwandan leader.  Rwanda's government has long-accused France of giving friendly support to the ethnic Hutu militias that led the bloody extermination campaign nearly 16 years ago, and of offering safe harbor to "genocidaires" ever since.

The bitterness within the leadership of this former French-speaking Belgian colony against France has run so deep that Rwanda has switched its official language to English, even taking the unorthodox step of joining the Commonwealth, despite the fact it never fell under British rule.

But both sides appear willing to begin repairing the battered ties.  A day before announcing President Nicolas Sarkozy's trip to Rwanda, French authorities arrested a Rwandan doctor residing and working in France.  He has long been named as a suspected genocide perpetrator.

Rwanda re-opened its embassy in Paris on Monday.

But the old wounds, are deeply cut and have been left festering for years.

The head of an umbrella group representing genocide survivors, Theodore Simburudari, is demanding an apology from France for its alleged role in arming the radical Hutu militias.

He says that multiple reports have evidenced French support to the genocide perpetrators, and he says he wants France to publicly admit it was involved in the massacre of Rwandan Tutsis.

But an outright apology does not appear forthcoming from France, which has always denied direct links to the slaughter.  The French have indicated that their new policy towards Rwanda will be attempting to toe a thin line - acknowledging previous mistakes, but shying away from any dramatic apologies.

In previewing President Sarkozy's upcoming visit, French Ambassador to Rwanda Laurent Contini cautioned Rwandans his leader has made it clear that he is not interested in dwelling on previous controversial French actions.

"My president when he came into power was very clear about the past.  He will not be apologizing, whatever the past is," said Contini.

He said that saying "sorry" was not something that was discussed as a requirement for the diplomatic rapprochement.

"When we negotiated the restoration of diplomatic relations with Rwanda, this line was very clearly defined.  We have this understanding that our restoration is not based on apologies and repentance.  So then now it is open to my leadership to go further to this line," Contini explained.

Advocacy groups have long maintained that a number of genocide offenders had taken refuge in France.  AFP reports that France is now investigating 12 cases of Rwandan suspects residing in its territory, but that only three have been charged.

President Sarkozy is also reportedly expected to form a new panel to look into France's role in the 1994 bloodshed.  A previous parliamentary commission 12 years ago had absolved the French government of responsibility in the mass killings.

In the incident that sparked the 2006 dispute, President Kagame's nine aides were charged for the 1994 death of Rwanda's then-leader, Juvenal Habyarimana.  The Rwandan president's plane was shot down, an event used by the radical Hutu to launch the ethnic massacre.  Mr. Kagame, who led the Tutsi-rebel force credited with ending the genocide, was accused by the judge of ordering the assassination.

After the charges, the Rwandan government commissioned a probe into the assassination attack.  Its findings, considered the most in-depth look yet into the incident, were reported late last year, and accused President Habyarimana's own inner circle of plotting his demise.  The Hutu leader was returning from a peace summit in which he had reached a deal with Kagame's rebel army.

About 800,000 people, mostly Tutsi, were killed in the 100 days following the assassination.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs