France to erect Paris memorial to Rwanda genocide victims

Saturday April 08 2023
Eric Mwizerwa Rwanda genocide survivr.

Eric Mwizerwa, a survivor of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi giving his testimony on April 7,2023 during the 29th commemoration ceremony in Kigali, Rwanda. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA | NMG



France is to build a memorial to the victims of the 1994 Rwanda genocide against the Tutsi, it said Friday, as Kigali marks 29 years since the slaughter.

The announcement comes after President Emmanuel Macron in 2021 recognised that his country bore responsibility in the killing of 800,000 mostly Rwandan Tutsis between April and July 1994.

The monument will be erected in Paris on the Left Bank of the river Seine not far from the foreign ministry, the French presidency said.

It will be across the water from another memorial to the victims of the mass killings of Armenians during World War I, which Yerevan and several Western states see as genocide.

The idea is "for the nation to pay its visible and permanent respects to the memory of the victims," the presidency said, adding that a call for tenders would be launched at the end of May.

President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame

Rwandan President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame after laying a wreath during the 29th commemoration ceremony for the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi at Gisozi Genocide Memorial in Kigali on April 7, 2023. PHOTO | MARIAM KONE | AFP

‘Very important’

Marcel Kabanda, president of the Ibuka France genocide survivor association, welcomed the announcement as "very important".

"It's the sign that France... recognises its history," he said.

"It's a gesture to appease memories between France and Rwanda, and to appease the hearts of survivors of the genocide."

Kigali for decades accused Paris, which had close ties to the ethnic Hutu regime in power at the time, of complicity in the mass killings.

After years of tensions, a commission of historians appointed by Macron in 2021 returned a damning indictment of France's role in the bloodshed.

Ntarama Genocide Memorial in Kigali, Rwanda.

A picture taken on March 22, 2019 at the Ntarama Genocide Memorial in Kigali shows skulls of Rwanda victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. PHOTO | JACQUES NKINZINGABO | AFP


It said France had been "blind" to preparations for the genocide and bore "serious and overwhelming" responsibility, findings the French government accepted.

The commission found no proof, however, of French complicity in the bloodshed.

Vincent Duclert, who led the historians' commission, said the new memorial would allow "recognition of the extreme importance of the 1994 catastrophe" and highlight France's "responsibility".