Posted on: New York Times | April 8th, 2019
Author: Aurelien Breeden

PARIS — President Emmanuel Macron of France said on Sunday that he wanted to create a national day of commemoration for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which has been a longstanding source of tension between the two countries.

Mr. Macron said in a statement that he wanted to create a national day of remembrance on April 7, the date 25 years ago that Rwanda’s Hutu majority began systematically massacring members of the Tutsi minority, leaving an estimated 800,000 to one million people dead.

“On this day of commemoration for the 25th anniversary of the Tutsi genocide in Rwanda, the president of the republic expresses his solidarity with the Rwandan people and his compassion for the victims and their families,” the statement said.

Rwanda, led by President Paul Kagame, has long accused France of complicity in the genocide and of helping some of the perpetrators escape, poisoning ties between the two countries, even though relations have warmed since Mr. Macron’s election in 2017.

France has been accused of providing weapons and military training to the Hutu-dominated government in the years that led up to the genocide, and of failing to prevent or even supporting the massacres when they started, despite the presence of French peacekeeping soldiers.

Ibuka France, a group that advocates remembrance of the genocide, praised Mr. Macron’s announcement. Marcel Kabanda, the head of the group, told Agence France-Presse that Ibuka France had suggested the idea in a meeting with Mr. Macron on Friday.

Mr. Macron did not say what the day of commemoration would entail or how he would create it. He could proceed by decree, or have his government present a bill in Parliament, where his party has a majority in the more powerful lower house.

France has admitted mistakes in how it handled the killings but has always denied the accusations of complicity. After meeting with survivors and members of Ibuka France on Friday, Mr. Macron ordered a two-year government study of France’s role in the genocide.

The study will be led by a commission of eight historians and researchers. They will have access to official French archives covering the period between 1990 and 1994 in order to “analyze the role and involvement of France” during the massacres and to help shape French school curriculums, Mr. Macron said.

In Rwanda, a week of commemorations started on Sunday, as did 100 days of mourning for victims of the genocide. Mr. Kagame laid a wreath and lit a flame at the Gisozi memorial site in Kigali, the capital. Over 250,000 people are believed to be buried at the site.

A remembrance walk was scheduled to go from the Rwandan Parliament building to the national soccer stadium. Several heads of state were expected to attend, but not Mr. Macron, who sent Hervé Berville, a member of France’s Parliament and survivor of the Rwandan genocide, as his representative.

Mr. Berville, 29, was evacuated by the French Army at the age of 4 and adopted by a couple in Brittany. He was part of the wave of first-time politicians elected to the lower house of Parliament in 2017 for Mr. Macron’s party.

“It is both a source of pride and a great responsibility to go there to represent France,” Mr. Berville told RFI radio on Tuesday.

Mr. Macron also announced last week that more resources would be granted to the French judicial authorities who are working to identify and prosecute those suspected of perpetrating the genocide, some of whom fled to France after the violence ended.

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