Rwanda-France row mars genocide anniversary

2014-04-06 14:00
Rwandan children. (File, AFP)

Rwandan children. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Kigali - Preparations in Rwanda on Sunday for the commemorations for the 20th anniversary of the genocide were overshadowed by a major spat with France amid renewed allegations that Paris was complicit in the killings.

The French government announced that it was pulling out of Monday's events after Rwandan President Paul Kagame again accused France, an ally of the Hutu nationalist government prior to the 1994 killings, of having helped the murder of 800 000 ethnic Tutsis take place.

Speaking to the weekly Jeune Afrique, Kagame denounced the "direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation for the genocide", and said French soldiers who were sent to Rwanda when the killings started were both accomplices and "actors" in the bloodbath.

Paris has repeatedly denied the accusations and insisted that French forces had striven to protect civilians.

French foreign ministry spokesperson Romain Nadal said he was "surprised" by Kagame's accusations, saying they went against reconciliation efforts between the two countries. He also announced that French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira would be staying away.

"France regrets that it cannot take part in the 20th anniversary commemorations for the genocide," he said.

Former colonial power Belgium, which unlike France has apologised to Rwanda for failing to prevent the genocide, said it would still be sending a senior delegation for the commemorations.

Official mourning, which began three months ago with a flame of remembrance touring the small nation from village to village, culminate on Monday when the torch arrives at the national genocide memorial.

President Kagame will light a flame that will burn for 100 days, the length of time it took government soldiers and Hutu militia to kill hundreds of thousands of people.

Wreathes will also be laid at the national genocide memorial, before ceremonies in Kigali's football stadium, where UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as well as several African presidents, is due to attend.

Ban said the commemorations were a chance to remind the world to do all it can to ensure such crimes never happen again. The UN was heavily criticised in 1994 for not doing more to stop the killing.

'Lesson for Syria, Central African Republic'

"The scale of the brutality in Rwanda still shocks: An average of 10 000 deaths per day, day after day, for three months," Ban said in a statement on Sunday, adding that the impact of the massacres are still being felt across an "arc of uncertainty in Africa's Great Lakes region -- and in the collective conscience of the international community".

"The international community cannot claim to care about atrocity crimes and then shrink from the commitment of resources and will be required to actually prevent them," Ban added.

"People everywhere should place themselves in the shoes of the vulnerable, from Syria to the Central African Republic, and ask themselves what more they can do to build a world of human rights and dignity for all," Ban added.

Several African heads of state are expected, but it is not clear who will head delegations from neighbouring Tanzania and Democratic Republic of Congo, with whom Rwanda's diplomatic relations have been strained in recent months.

Rwanda has repeatedly denied allegations it backed rebels in eastern DR Congo, while Tanzanian troops last year joined a new United Nations brigade set up to quash the myriad militia forces in same zone.

Many in Rwanda are remembering in their own deeply personal, quiet and reflective way.

In one church in Kigali, where the congregation knelt in silence to remember those who had died in 1994, several wiped away tears as they stood up to sing.

"This time of year the memories are too much, too much to bear," said Louise Ndamyimana, an elderly woman whose family were all killed in 1994, her voice trembling as she waited for a bus after attending Catholic mass.

Rwanda's Red Cross has boosted its support staff for those hit hard by the memory of trauma, as the media floods with stories recalling the horrific stories of those who survived.

"I think about those who died every hour of every day, but the thoughts of what happened are overwhelming," Ndamyimana added.

The official "Kwibuka" mourning - meaning "remember" in Kinyarwanda, and with the slogan "remember, unite, renew" - ends on 4 July, Rwanda's liberation day.

Read more on:    paul kagame  |  rwanda  |  genocide  |  east africa

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.
NEXT ON NEWS24X publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.