KIGALI: Rwandan President Paul Kagame says France’s recent acknowledgement over its role in the 1994 genocide in his country is "a big step" -- even if it didn’t come with an apology.
His counterpart Emmanuel Macron, during a historic visit to the east African nation this week, recognised France’s role in the killing of 800,000 mostly Tutsi Rwandans and said only the survivors could grant "the gift of forgiveness".
Stopping short of an apology -- and stressing France "was not complicit" in the actual violence -- Macron went further than his predecessors in acknowledging that Paris backed the genocidal regime and ignored warnings of looming massacres.
Some survivors had been hoping for a formal atonement, and were left disappointed.
But Kagame, who lead the Tutsi rebellion that ended the genocide, has regularly accused France of complicity in the crimes.
He applauded Macron for "speaking the truth" and said his words were "more valuable than an apology".
Expanding on his remarks in an interview with AFP and France Inter, the veteran Rwandan leader expressed doubt about ever "getting an entirely satisfactory answer".
"But I think it is a big step. We need to admit it, take it and work towards other steps, whenever and wherever they come," Kagame said late on Friday in Kigali.
"Somebody can come and say ‘I am sorry, I apologise’. Still, I think some people will remain and say ‘that is not enough’. And they have the right to think so or to say so. In this case, I don’t see a silver bullet, something that will come and settle everything. "Does it answer everything, every question that everyone has to raise? I don’t think so. Do survivors have the right to question a number of things? They have the right."
Macron’s visit, the first by a French leader since 2010, sought to turn a new page on a tortured quarter century of acrimony between France and Rwanda over the unresolved questions of the genocide. Ahead of his symbolic trip, Macron had commissioned historians to pore over archives to re-examine France’s involvement not just in the brutality of 1994 but the crucial years leading up to it.
France provided political and military support to Kigali during a civil war preceding the genocide, and long stood accused of turning a blind eye to the dangers posed by Hutu extremists in a country scarred by large scale massacres in its past.