By Ignatius Ssuuna and Rodney Muhumuza | AP April 7, 2021 at 8:59 a.m. EDT
KIGALI, Rwanda — President Paul Kagame of Rwanda on Wednesday praised a new French report documenting France’s role in the 1994 genocide as “a good thing,” welcoming efforts in Paris to “move forward with a good understanding of what happened” 27 years after the massacres that shocked the world.
Kagame spoke before dignitaries and others in an arena in the capital, Kigali, at the start of a week during which the central African country will commemorate the genocide.
“We welcome this (report),” Kagame said, asserting that his government’s interpretation of the commission’s findings is that then-French leader Francois “Mitterrand knew that a genocide against the Tutsis was being planned by their allies in Rwanda” but continued “supporting them because he believed this was necessary for France’s geopolitical position.”
Rwandans “were just pawns in geopolitical games,” charged Kagame.
This is the first time Rwanda’s president is commenting on France’s genocide report that was released in March. The report, commissioned in 2019 by President Emmanuel Macron, concluded that French authorities failed to perceive preparations for the killings as they supported the “violent” government of then-Rwandan leader Juvenal Habyarimana and then were too slow to acknowledge the extent of the killings. But it clears the French of complicity in the massacres.
The report includes a frank acknowledgment of France’s apparent “blindness” to the drift that led to the genocide.
Kagame said his government is also producing a report with findings “that go in the same direction.” It is not clear when Rwanda’s report will be published.
“The important thing is to continue working together to document the truth,” Kagame said in a speech followed on television by Rwandans unable to gather in large numbers because of COVID-19 restrictions. For the second year running, genocide commemoration events have been curtailed to combat the spread of COVID-19. Annual events such as the ‘Walk to Remember’ will not take place.
Kagame’s comments are significant because they suggest an apparent detente between Rwanda and France, which is opening its archives from the genocide period to the public for the first time this week. Macron’s decisions to commission the report on France’s role and open the archives to the public are part of his efforts to more fully confront France’s role in the genocide and to improve relations with Rwanda, including making April 7, the day the killings began, a day of commemoration.
About 8,000 documents that the commission examined for two years, including some that were previously classified, will be made accessible to the general public starting Wednesday.