Daniel Howden: It's really about Kigali getting back at Paris

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The 100 days of killings that seared this small, mountainous country into the global consciousness also destroyed its relationship with France. The new Tutsi-led government under Paul Kagame has blamed France for bolstering the Hutu regime, and accused Paris of an active role in the genocide of 1994, in which 800,000 people were slaughtered.

In 2006, a French judge implicated Mr Kagame in the assassination of then-president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose plane was shot down in 1994, an event seen as the spark that detonated the orgy of blood-letting. The Rwandan President has denied the charge, saying Mr Habyarimana, a Hutu, was killed by Hutu extremists who used this to provide the pretext for genocide against the Tutsis.

Rwanda fired back in 2008 with its own commission, which found France culpable in the planning and execution of the massacres. It said Paris was aware of preparations for the massacres and helped train the ethnic Hutu militia, the Interhamwe, who committed most of the slaughter. It also accused French troops of "direct involvement" and provided a list of senior French military and political figures it said should be prosecuted.

Two men who would go on to become prime ministers – Dominique de Villepin and Alain Juppé – were named, as well as the late former president, François Mitterrand, and the then-prime minister Edouard Balladur. France's present foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner said political errors had been made but denied French responsibility in connection with the genocide.

The row over responsibility has resulted in diplomatic ties being severed for long periods, and prompted Rwanda to ditch French in favour of English as the official language, and even to encourage the playing of cricket. One cabinet minister in the capital, Kigali, was heard to remark that Rwanda must be allowed into the Commonwealth club of English-speaking nations because "French is a dying language and we want to be part of a living language".

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