Rwanda, France seek better ties after “dark history”


Rwanda and France have turned over a new leaf in relations marked by a “dark history,” the two countries’ foreign ministers said, following a dispute over events surrounding Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

Previously, both governments had traded accusations and recriminations over their respective roles during the genocide in which some 800 000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

In his first visit to Rwanda since the two nations restored diplomatic ties in November, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Paris wanted to help Rwanda in a number of areas including health, trade and technology.

Rwanda severed relations with France three years ago after a French judge accused some of President Paul Kagame’s top aides of shooting down the former president’s plane in April 1994, an event that triggered the genocide.

Rwanda vigorously rejected the indictments, and accused the French government of training and arming the militias responsible for the violence, as well as harbouring top genocide suspects including Agatha Habyarimana, widow of the former president.
“We don’t forget the past, but the most important thing is to think about the future,” Kouchner told reporters in Kigali. “We are going to develop many projects.”

Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo and her French counterpart said the outstanding indictments were the concern of their judicial systems and independent of politics.
“We need to turn over a new leaf after a dark history and work towards a stronger relationship in future,” Mushikiwabo said late yesterday.

A Rwandan government report into the assassination of former President Juvenal Habyarimana will be released later this month.

Paris announced earlier this week that it would establish a special panel to try genocide crimes and crimes against humanity that are committed outside France.