Sarkozy admits France's role in Rwandan genocide

President acknowledges that 'errors' were made but stops short of formal apology

President Nicolas Sarkozy admitted yesterday that French "errors" had contributed to the Rwandan genocide which killed an estimated 800,000 people in 1994.

On the first visit by a French leader to Rwanda for 25 years, Mr Sarkozy did not formally apologise. Nor did he accept allegations that France had played an active role in training and arming the Hutu militias and troops who led massacres of Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

But he suggested that the entire international community – and France in particular – should accept that its response had been culpably weak. "What happened here is a defeat for humanity," Mr Sarkozy said. "What happened here left an indelible stain. What happened here obliges the international community – including France – to reflect on the errors which prevented us from foreseeing, or stopping, this appalling crime."

Previously France has always insisted that it could not have foreseen the genocide and that the intervention of its troops helped to save many Hutu and Tutsi lives. Mr Sarkozy's visit to Kigali, and joint press conference with the Rwandan President Paul Kagame, were the most dramatic symbols to date of efforts to repair relations. Diplomatic ties were restored in November, three years after they were severed amid mutual recriminations and allegations.

In 2006, a French investigating judge issued international arrest warrants for eight Tutsi officials close to President Kagame, suggesting that they had deliberately provoked the genocide of their own people by assassinating a moderate Hutu president in May 1994. The accusations brought renewed allegations from Mr Kagame's Tutsi-dominated government that France had armed and trained Hutu militias and soldiers knowing that genocidal attacks were likely or possible.

In 1998, a French parliamentary investigation rejected these accusations but admitted that the late President François Mitterrand and the then centre-right government in France had been blinded by supposed French interests in the region into siding with radical, and eventually murderous, Hutu groups.

The eight arrest warrants against Kagame aides are still active but the Rwandan government now accepts that they were drawn up by an independent investigating magistrate and not the French government.

Before his press conference with President Kagame, Mr Sarkozy was taken on a tour of Kigali's genocide museum. On two occasions, the official guide made references to alleged French complicity in the massacres, including a photograph of a French military vehicle driving past armed Hutu civilians. President Sarkozy ignored the remarks.

He later placed a wreath on a memorial to the dead and said that "in the name of the people of France" he "bowed" to "victims of the genocide of the Tutsis". "Errors of appreciation, political errors, were committed here which had consequences which were absolutely tragic," Mr Sarkozy said. Although he spoke of the cumulative guilt of the international community, the implication was clear. France was – for the first time – admitting that its own actions had contributed to the calamity.

On his way to Rwanda, Mr Sarkozy visited Gabon and made an unscheduled stop in Mali to greet a French aid worker, Pierre Camatte, released this week after almost three months as the hostage of an extreme Islamist group.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: Do you want to get in...

Ashdown Group: Project Manager - Birmingham - up to £40,000 - 12 month FTC

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Manager - Birmingham - ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before