The French government’s decision to pull out of today’s 20th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi is out of guilt because of Paris’ undisputed role in the pogrom, survivors have said.
French Justice minister Christiane Taubira-Delannon, over the weekend, cancelled her plans to travel to Kigali for the Genocide anniversary events, citing fresh accusations by Rwanda that France participated in the Genocide.
“I see this as a sign of guilt and the shame of facing Rwandans and foreigners who will be mourning with us on Monday,” said Genocide survivor and former MP Charles Kamanda.
He further suggested that the decision could also be linked to recent publications by several French nationals implicating their country in the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.
The head of Ibuka, the umbrella of the associations of Genocide survivors, Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, echoed similar views. “Their latest behaviour is a continuation of the past, they have always tried to rewrite Rwanda’s history, especially that of the Genocide. Their decision is rooted in historical facts.”
Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy, during a visit to Rwanda, in 2010, came short of apologising for his country’s role in the Genocide, only saying that Paris had made “a serious error of judgment” in the run up and during the Genocide.
The French government of Francois Mitterrand is accused of extending financial, material and moral support to the genocidal regime in Rwanda, including training the Interahamwe, the militia blamed for the killings that claimed the lives of more than a million people in a space of 100 days.
France’s withdrawal from Genocide commemoration activities have also been criticised by prominent French nationals, including Bernard Kouchner, the former foreign minister who is in Kigali for the Genocide anniversary events. He described the decision as “childish reaction”.
Kouchner also told France 24 that Paris and Kigali needed to establish a joint truth and justice commission to ascertain the role of France in Rwanda in 1994. Several French activists and academics are also in Kigali for the commemoration events.
Last month, France delivered its first Genocide ruling – a 25 year jail term for former Rwandan spymaster Pascal Simbikangwa for playing a part in the killings – but critics say the trial was a smoke screen designed to deflect attention away from France’s refusal to help bring to book dozens of Genocide suspects living on its soil.
Rwanda has indicted nearly 30 Genocide perpetrators living in France, and has officially accused more than 30 former French political and military leaders of actively backing the Genocide.