There is renewed hope for diplomatic rapprochement between Kigali and Paris after a French government Commission of historians announced on Friday that France bears “serious and overwhelming responsibility” for the 1994 genocide that killed more than 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis in Rwanda.
The 100-day massacres were carried out by extremist ethnic majority Hutus against the minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The killings were triggered by the downing over Kigali of the plane carrying Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and his Burundi fellow Hutu colleague Cyprien Ntaryamira.
Habyarimana was a French ally and the genocide, which started on 7th April, 1994 later escalated into a diplomatic row with accusations and counter accusations of liability between Paris and Kigali, culminating in current Rwandan President Paul Kagame severing diplomatic ties with France in 2006.
Kagame belonged to a Tutsi rebel group during the genocide period.
The report of the 15-member Commission of experts set up by President Emmanuel Macron two years ago, acknowledged that France was “blind” in the preparations, but there was no evidence that it was complicit in the genocide.
It also blamed former French President Francois Mitterrand for his failure of policy toward Rwanda in 1994.
French diplomatic sources said there was now a basis for an “irreversible” diplomatic relations with Kigali.
Rwanda on its part said the report “represents an important step toward a common understanding of France’s role in the genocide against the Tutsi.”
The United Nations, which pulled out its forces at the start of the killings and the international community at large, were heavily criticised for failing to stop the genocide.
However, 27 years on, Rwanda under Kagame has witnessed rapid transformation with national reconciliation and development from the ashes of the mass killings.