KIGALI - France’s Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner arrives in the country today on an official visit aimed at restoring diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Rwanda severed diplomatic ties with France in 2006 after controversial French magistrate Jean Louis Bruguiere issued arrest warrants for senior Rwandan leaders over the death of former president Juvenal Habyarimana.
Foreign Affairs minister Dr Charles Murigande on Thursday confirmed Kouchner’s visit but declined to give details.
“The minister is coming within the framework of continued dialogue to resolve problems that exist between us. He is expected to travel with some French government officials and members of the media,” he said.
French Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Pascale Andreani said on Wednesday that Kouchner would visit Rwanda after a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“This visit is part of the process of progressive normalisation in our relations,” she was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency. She added that Kouchner would then go to Burkina Faso, where he would meet President Blaise Compaore, who has served as a mediator in the Ivory Coast civil war.
Although Rwanda lodged a complaint against France before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) last year, it has repeatedly said that it is not interested in carrying on the grudge with France.
Kigali insists that it is up to Paris to come out and apologise for its alleged role in the 1994 Genocide that left over a million people dead.
Several testimonies heard by the independent Mucyo Commission set up to adduce evidence on France’s role in the Genocide indicate that French officers played a role in the massive killings that claimed at least one million Rwandans.
Among the people who have testified before the Mucyo Commission were French nationals.
The French are accused of having committed atrocities especially in the western and southern part of the country where Operation Turquoise, a French military operation was based.
According to some of the witnesses – some of them foreign journalists – the operation was not humanitarian as it was meant to be, but it was instead used as an excuse to reinforce the then Rwandan government army and militias.
France has continuously denied having played a role in the Genocide. Since last year, Rwanda and France have expressed willingness to resolve their problems.
In October 2007, Murigande and Kouchner held talks on the sidelines of the UN 62nd General Assembly in New York.
And later, President Paul Kagame met and held talks with his French counterpart Nicholas Sarkozy in December during the EU-Africa summit in Lisbon, Portugal.
Sarkozy said the meeting was “the start of a normalisation” of ties.
Additional reporting by agencies