KIGALI - Rwanda's foreign minister has reasserted claims France had a role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, after French diplomats pulled out of genocide memorial events in response to the accusations. The dispute comes as Rwanda prepares to host world leaders for commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the atrocity.
At an international forum on genocide being held Sunday in Kigali, Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo stood by Rwandan President Paul Kagame's remarks implying the French government played a direct role in the preparation and execution of the genocide.
“That official France in the early '90's all the way to the time of the genocide wronged this country is a fact,” she said.
Kagame's remarks to the African news weekly Jeune Afrique prompted France to withdraw a delegation due to attend genocide memorial events this week in Kigali.
French foreign affairs spokesman Romain Nadal said his government was surprised by Kagame's declarations, saying they go “against the ongoing process of reconciliation between our two countries.”
Relations between France and Rwanda deteriorated after the genocide due to accusations that France had supported ethnic Hutu militias responsible for killing nearly 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a span of 100 days.
While France has denied any role in the slaughter, Mushikiwabo said relations cannot be repaired if Rwanda has to accept the French version of events.
“It would become impossible for our two countries to move forward if the condition is that Rwanda has to forgo its history in order to get along with France,” she said.
Kigali will host officials from around the world this week for ceremonies commemorating the 20th anniversary of the genocide.
An opinion article timed for the anniversary, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the international community to learn from its failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda, and to take stronger action to confront modern-day crises, like the conflict in the Central African Republic.
“The international community,” he said, “cannot claim to care about atrocity crimes and then shrink from the commitment of resources and will required to actually prevent them.”
At a ceremony in Kigali Monday, Rwanda's President Kagame will light a National Flame of Mourning that will burn for 100 days.