In a historic visit today, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial, touring its permanent exhibitions and laying a wreath at mass graves where 250,000 victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi lie buried.
In a speech delivered at the Memorial, Macron noted the criminal intent of the killers to eradicate all Tutsi, paying tribute to the memory of the victims and the courage of survivors. He also acknowledged that in the early 1990s, “France failed to hear the voices of those who had warned it”, and “it was in fact standing by a genocidal regime.”
The speech contained an invitation for others to join France in opening all their archives relating to this period of Rwandan history – and there was an explicit commitment to “ensuring that no one suspected of genocide crimes can escape justice.”
“France … has a duty to face history and to recognize the suffering it has inflicted on the Rwandan people by allowing silence to prevail over the examination of the truth for too long,” Macron added.
Run by the Aegis Trust on behalf of Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide (CNLG), the Kigali Genocide Memorial is a place of remembrance, learning and hope for Rwandans and the international community alike.
A peace education program first developed by Aegis at the Memorial is now built into Rwanda’s national schools curriculum, designed to help young people apply lessons from the past to strengthen their communities and reduce the risk of divisions recurring in the future.
“Recognition of the Genocide against the Tutsi counters negationism. It was a huge step for survivors to see this definitively acknowledged at the Kigali Genocide Memorial by a French President today,” says Freddy Mutanguha, Executive Director of the Aegis Trust. “We welcome the normalisation of relations between France and Rwanda, and look forward to this enabling historians and researchers to build on the work of the Duclert Commission and Muse Report to uncover the full and vital truth about the past.”
“President Macron’s commitment to bring genocide suspects to justice is heartening,” says Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust. “We urge the governments of all countries where Rwandan genocide suspects are living – including the UK – to make that commitment and to match it with action.”
“Ndibuka,” President Macron wrote in the visitors’ book at the Kigali Genocide Memorial before leaving. “I will remember. These names, these faces, these lives that a Genocide perpetrated against the Tutsis has deprived of a future. The time has come to reconcile our memories, to recognize the past, to bow to the victims and to listen to the pain of the survivors. It is France’s honour to face its history. It is up to us to build the future for all these children.”