France announced it is pulling out of the 20th anniversary commemorations on Monday
Belgium confirmed on Sunday that it will attend commemorations in Kigali on the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, after accusations by Rwandan President Paul Kagame over France and Belgium’s role in the conflict prompted Paris to drop out.
On Monday, leaders including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will gather in Kigali to remember the events in 1994, when around 800,000 Rwandans were brutally killed in a three-month campaign by the Hutu-led government against the Tutsi population.
Rwanda is a former Belgian colony. France had close diplomatic and military ties with the Hutu-dominated government that was in power when the killings started a day after the plane of president Juvenal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, was shot down.
In a recent interview with African weekly Jeune Afrique, Mr. Kagame referred to “the direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation of the genocide, and the participation of the latter in its actual execution.” Following the remarks, France announced on Saturday that Justice Minister Christiane Taubira would not visit Kigali on Monday as planned.
Mr. Kagame’s comments “are in contradiction to the process of dialogue and reconciliation engaged in for several years”, said French Foreign Ministry spokesman Romain Nadal, the AFP news agency reported.
Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders said on Sunday that he understood France’s reaction, but that the situation was different for Belgium.
“He (Kagame) does not indict us for participating in the execution of the genocide,” Mr. Reynders told Belga news agency.
The objective is to pay tribute to all victims of the genocide,” Mr. Reynders added. “This is not at all about paying tribute to a president or his government.” Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo spoke on Sunday of the need to “recognize the errors of the past and learn all lessons”, as he addressed the families of Belgian soldiers and civilians killed in the 1994 genocide, before they flew to Kigali for the commemorations.
“Twenty years later, those responsible and the actors in the Rwandan genocide continue to be pursued and judged,” Mr. Di Rupo said, adding “They must be held accountable.”