France will not take part in the 20th anniversary commemorations of the Rwandan genocide after its president, Paul Kagame, accused Paris of “participating” in the 1994 mass killings.
Kagame denounced the “direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation for the genocide,” in an interview with Jeune Afrique, a Paris weekly, which is due to be published on Sunday.
France said Kagame’s statement hindered reconciliation efforts between the two countries and announced that Christiane Taubira, the French justice minister, would not attend Monday’s commemorations in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
“France regrets that it cannot take part in the 20th anniversary commemorations for the genocide,” said Romain Nadal, a spokesman for the country’s foreign ministry.
Kagame also accused French soldiers, who took part in a military humanitarian mission in Rwanda’s south, of being both accomplices and “actors” in the bloodbath.
Paris has repeatedly denied these accusations and insists that French forces were trying to protect Rwanda’s civilians.
Relations between the two countries were frozen between 2006 and 2009 but have improved. France last month sentenced Pascal Simbikangwa, a former Rwandan army captain, to 25 years in prison for his role in the massacre.
It was the first trial in France to punish those responsible for the three-month wave of violence.
But Kagame scoffed at the Simbikangwa sentence, saying he did not see it as a positive development.
“For one criminal condemned 20 years on, how many criminals has the French justice system conjured away?” he said.
“This sentence is made out to be a gesture, almost like a favor that France has accorded Rwanda, while it is France’s role in the genocide that should be being examined.”
Kagame’s FPR rebels overthrew the Hutu-led government in 1994, and his party still controls the government.
In 2008, a report by Rwanda’s MUCYO commission of inquiry concluded that France had trained the armed groups that carried out killings and French troops had taken part in massacres. It accused 13 politicians and 20 officers by name.
Many of those accused of the worst crimes of the war escaped, allegedly under the cover of a French military mission.
At least 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were killed in the genocide.