Rwanda president hits out at France

2014-04-07 15:05
Rwandan President Paul Kagame and UN chief Ban Ki-moon, centre-left, light a memorial flame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide in Kigali. (Ben Curtis, AP)

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and UN chief Ban Ki-moon, centre-left, light a memorial flame at a ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide in Kigali. (Ben Curtis, AP)

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Kigali - Rwandan President Paul Kagame took a thinly-veiled swipe at France on Monday, saying it was impossible to "change the facts" about the genocide 20 years ago.

"The passage of time should not obscure the facts, lessen the responsibility, or turn victims into villains," he said in a speech during commemorations marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide.

"People cannot be bribed or forced into changing their history, and no country is powerful enough, even when they think they are, to change the facts... After all, les faits sont tetus [facts are facts]," he said, saying the final phrase in French and drawing loud applause in the national stadium.

The anniversary has been marked by reminders of festering anger with a major diplomatic row breaking out over renewed allegations of French complicity in the genocide.

"We have a reason to celebrate"

Paris had cancelled a ministerial visit in response to renewed accusations by Kagame, and on Monday the French ambassador was in turn barred from attending commemoration ceremonies.

The Rwandan president had said in an interview prior to the commemorations that French soldiers - who helped train the Hutu nationalist-controlled Rwandan army prior to 1994, as well as being accused of aiding the killers to escape - were both accomplices and "actors" in the bloodbath.

An estimated 800 000 people, mostly Tutsis and some moderate Hutus, died in the killings.

"Twenty years ago Rwanda had no future, only a past," Kagame said.

"Today we have a reason to celebrate the normal moments of life that are easy for others to take for granted. If the genocide reveals humanity's shocking capacity for human cruelty, Rwanda's choices show its capacity for renewal."
Read more on:    paul kagame  |  france  |  rwanda  |  east africa  |  1994 rwandan genocide
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