Amanpour Rwanda genocide 25th anniversary _00025520.jpg
Remembering the Rwanda genocide, 25 years on
03:01 - Source: CNN

French President Emmanuel Macron publicly has acknowledged France’s “overwhelming responsibility” in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

“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.

This historic statement was pronounced during Macron’s trip to Rwanda, a country central to the President’s strategy to reshape France’s image in Africa.

Rwandan genocide survivors’ groups, speaking to CNN, had mixed reactions to French President Emmanuel Macron’s statement.

President of survivors association Ibuka France Etienne Nsanzimana said that, “although survivors wanted clear apologies,” French President Emmanuel Macron had “asked for forgiveness in other words” in a highly symbolic moment for survivors.

Dafroza Gauthier, a researcher of the Rwandan genocide and member of the Collective of Civil Plaintiffs for Rwanda, told CNN she was “very disappointed” that Macron did not clearly apologize.

“He said that only the victims could pardon France. But how could they pardon if no one asks?” Gauthier said.

Ever since the genocide, France has been accused by survivors’ groups and researchers of militarily supporting the French-speaking Hutu regime, which it saw as an essential ally in Africa, even after massacres had started. In 1994, over 800,000 mainly ethnic Tutsis were killed by Hutu militias in a hundred days.

Macron also 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.”

France has been blamed for allowing alleged Hutu perpetrators to leave Rwanda and to let some of them live in France, undisturbed, for years. Bringing them to justice is one of the main fights led by survivors’ association Ibuka.

A “major step forward”

Macron’s admission was based on the conclusions of the Duclert report, an independent report commissioned by the French Presidency, which established France’s “overwhelming responsibility” in the genocide.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame praised Macron’s words on Thursday, saying that they “were something more valuable than an apology: they were the truth.”

This speech was a “major step” in the relationship between the two countries, Kagame added.