“France did not understand that, while trying to prevent a regional conflict, or a civil war, it was in fact standing by the side of a genocidal regime,” Macron said Thursday following a visit to the Gisozi memorial in the Rwandan capital Kigali.
“By doing so, it endorsed an overwhelming responsibility,” Macron added, in the strongest public admission of responsibility from a French leader to date.
“On this path, only those who went through the night can, maybe, forgive us, give us the gift of forgiveness,” Macron concluded.
Rwandan President Kagame praised French President Macron’s speech, saying it was a “major step” in the relationship between the two countries.
“France and Rwanda are going to relate much better, to the benefit of both our people,” Kagame said, even if “the relationship between the two countries will never be entirely conventional.”
Macron’s words “were something more valuable than an apology: they were the truth,” Kagame added.
“Politically and morally, this was an act of tremendous courage,” Kagame said.
While the French president said his country was “not complicit” in the genocide because killers were not French, he vowed that “no suspected genocide perpetrator will be able to avoid justice” because “recognizing our past is also – and above all else – continuing the work of justice.”
Activists have been calling for the prosecution of perpetrators, some of whom have been living in France for years.
Macron’s visit to Kigali is meant to mark a final step in the normalization of relations between France and Rwanda, long overshadowed by France’s involvement in the genocide, according to the Elysée.
In 1994, around 800,000 mainly ethnic Tutsis were killed by Hutu militias supported by the Rwandan government. France has been accused of failing to prevent the genocide and of supporting the Hutu regime, even after the massacres had started.