Macron Arrives in Rwanda to Turn ‘New Page’ in Relations


The visit is a win for Mr. Kagame, whose government in 2006 severed diplomatic relations with France over a case linked to the genocide. While diplomatic relations were restored three years later, tensions continued, and France has not had an accredited ambassador in Kigali since 2015. Mr. Macron’s trip also comes as the Rwandan government faces renewed scrutiny over its human rights record, its campaign of assassinations and kidnap against exiled dissidents and its long entanglement in conflicts in neighboring states.

France’s actions during the genocide, coupled with the inaction of the United States and other Western powers, had infuriated a generation of leaders in Rwanda and in the rest of Africa.

The Rwandan government’s report, published in April, stated that France played a “significant” role in “enabling a foreseeable genocide” and “did nothing to stop” the killings. In March, a report commissioned by Mr. Macron and written by historians, noted that France bore “overwhelming responsibilities” for the genocide, because it remained allied with the “racist, corrupt and violent” Hutu-led government even as those leaders prepared to slaughter the Tutsis. The report, however, cleared the French of complicity in the genocide.

Establishing the historical truth could provide a base for a new relationship between African and Western nations, said Vincent Duclert, a French historian who led the commission that produced the report for the French government.

“A common history is now emerging,” Mr. Duclert said. “There must be equality. Europe can no longer explain to Africa what it needs to know. It’s up to Africa to explain to Europe what it’s doing.”

But the reconciliation is also the result of more prosaic calculations by Mr. Macron and Mr. Kagame, two leaders facing different kinds of pressures in Africa, where people are clamoring for more accountability, even as new and resurgent powers, like China, Russia and Turkey, are increasingly outmuscling old powers like France.

For Mr. Macron, a political disrupter at home who has sought to reset France’s relations with Africa, the reconciliation amounts to his most successful attempt at finding friends and business partners in new corners of the continent.


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