France-Rwanda frosty relations on eve of genocide anniversary commemoration

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A single ambassador will represent France during the 20th anniversary ceremony of the Rwandan genocide to be held in Kigali on Monday.

The Justice Minister cancelled her trip after President Paul Kagame accused France of participating in the bloodletting in 1994 which left 800,000 dead, in an interview published this Sunday in African Weekly “Jeune Afrique”.

The French government’s dealings with the Hutu authorities in charge at the time of the massacre are at the origin of the allegations.

The legacy has been that French was dropped in favour of English as one of the official languages in Rwanda in 2008, but at this theatre in Kigali Carole Karemara is an exception to the rule.

“The French language has been condemned as the language of the power that let the genocide happen or that facilitated the genocide,” she said adding, “so now, I think the work of artists is to say it is not just the language during colonial times and times of “bad relations”. It’s also the language of millions of people.”

Reconciling the past is something Rwandans know well, with victim and perpetrator living peacefully side-by-side twenty years on from the massacre.

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