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Rwanda genocide: No fresh remark on France’s responsibility, why did the presidency backpedal?

Rwanda genocide: No fresh remark on France’s responsibility, why did the presidency backpedal?
French President Emmanuel Macron listens Czech Republic's Prime Minister Petr Fiala during a joint statement in Prague, Czech Republic, Tuesday, March 5, 2024.   -  
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Petr David Josek/Copyright 2024 The AP. All rights reserved


Why did French president Emmanuel Macron ultimately not say that “France could have stopped the genocide” as his office had announced last week?

Rwanda marked on April 7, the 30th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsis which saw the death of at least 800,000 Rwandans mainly ethnic Tutsi in 100 days of massacre in 1994.

During a press briefing on April 4th, the French presidency [Editor's Note: Elysée palace] detailed the content of a video to be released on April 7 in which Macron was said to acknowledge France's failure to act decisively during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

At the time, it was reported that Macron would "assert that France, along with its Western and African allies, had the capacity to intervene and prevent the genocide, but ultimately fell short due to a lack of determination".

In the following hours, leading French media outlets ran their headline on what was the news at the time: "France could have stopped the genocide".

A columnist at Liberation wrote for instance: "Rwanda genocide: Emmanuel Macron saves France's honour".

The video unveiled on Sunday (Apr. 07) eventually did not include those quotes.

"In any case, on this day, I wanted to reaffirm my attachment, my deep affection to reiterate to you these words from May 27, May 2021, and to tell you that my deep will, that of France is that we continue to move together, hand in hand," French president Macron said in a 2 min long video shared by the Rwanda public broadcaster. 

Speaking to state media outlet Franceinfo, the Élysée advisor who made the announcement acknowledged clumsiness on her part - which does not involve the president-  and which resulted in a bad interpretation.

Weight of domestic politics?

France launched in June 1994 in south-western Rwanda the military-humanitarian Operation Turquoise, under a UN mandate, aimed at "stopping the massacres".

The slauther had started in the early days of April after the a plane carrying then-President Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down over Kigali.

At the beginning of April 1994, Paris had already launched an operation to evacuate foreigners in Kigali, Operation Amaryllis, which lasted a few days.

In a clarification note unveiled by French retired general Lafourcade, the man who led the Turquoise mission rebuked commens that were still attributed to the president at the time. "As the former commander of the Turquoise mission, I can testify that France did have the will to restore peace and stop the genocide in Rwanda," Lafourcade wrote in a statement published on April 6.

In 2021, the French PM in 1994, Edouard Balladur, said France needed not apologise for the Rwanda genocide.

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