President Paul Kagame on Monday, April 25, joined world leaders in welcoming what he described as the well-deserved re-election of French President Emmanuel Macron.
Macron won another five more years as France’s head of state following a convincing victory over rival Marine Le Pen. Upon his victory, Kagame praised his “visionary leadership that seeks to unite and not divide”.
Macron, 44, won by 58.55 per cent to 41.45 per cent, a greater margin than expected.
“Rwanda looks forward to even more and stronger partnerships between our people and nations,” Kagame said.
In 2021, towards the end of Macron’s first term, the two countries turned a page following nearly three decades of animosity.
Macron visited Rwanda last year and said that France has a duty to face history and to recognise the suffering it inflicted on Rwandans by, for too long, being silent as far as facing and examining the truth about its role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is concerned.
Speaking at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, the French leader sought the forgiveness of the survivors of the 1994 Genocide, for what he admitted was his country’s historical and political responsibility in Rwanda.
At the time, however, no one was certain how the future looked since an election was looming and it was not clear if Macron would be re-elected.
The relationship between Rwanda and France “will require time as well as actions and gestures of goodwill to once again work,” Ismael A. Buchanan, a senior lecturer in the department of political science and international relations at the University of Rwanda, told The New Times at the time.
On Monday, Buchanan said Macron’s re-election “is a strong signal” that he is “a trusted man” with visionary leadership.
“So, his reelection is very important in the continuation of the normalisation of Franco and Rwanda’s cooperation,” Buchanan said. “Both countries are looking forward to continuing to work together on the issues which matter to both countries and people in the bilateral cooperation and of course the world on general.”
During and after the 1994 Genocide, instead of arresting ring leaders of the mass murders, French troops helped them flee. Many mass murderers were welcomed to stay in France where they remain up to now. France is also home to dozens of indicted Genocide suspects and hundreds of genocide deniers and revisionists.
But there is hope that the tide is turning and justice will be served.
A week after Macron’s visit, the French judiciary set the trial date in the case of Genocide fugitive Laurent Bucyibaruta, a former Mayor in Southern Rwanda who was one of the key people who participated in the killing of more than 50,000 Tutsi refugees in Murambi, during the genocide.
On December 16, 2021, the cour d’assises, or Assize Court, a criminal trial court that handles cases of genocide and war crimes, condemned Claude Muhayimana – the fourth Genocide criminal tried and sentenced in France in nearly three decades – to 14 years in prison over his role in the 1994 Genocide.
Leaders of the umbrella association of Genocide survivors, Ibuka, are ever optimistic too.
Etienne Nsanzimana, the president of Ibuka-France, told The New Times that Macron has left a mark on the history of French politics by becoming the first President to be re-elected outside the period of the cohabitation system. The latter is a system of divided government that occurs in semi-presidential systems, such as France, whenever the president is from a different political party than the majority of the members of parliament.
Nsanzimana said: “As President of Ibuka-France I am satisfied with this re-election because the progress that was made during his first mandate is remarkable. The inclusion of the genocide against the Tutsi in the French public and political landscape. The marginalization of genocide denial and the desire to move forward in terms of diplomacy, justice and memory.
“We are confident that during the second mandate France will be at the forefront in recognizing our history and dealing with its consequences as it was by being the second country after Rwanda to have erected memorials in tribute to the victims of the genocide against the Tutsi.”
This was Le Pen’s third failed presidential bid. She also lost to centrist Macron during the 2017 elections.
Her nationalist policies are widely seen as a threat to the recently revived ties between Rwanda and France, particularly following President Macron’s visit to Rwanda in May 2021.
Le Pen questioned Macron’s efforts toward thawing ties with Rwanda.
Kagame and Marcon maintained close ties and were eager to chart a new path in relations between the two countries. Kigali and Paris in recent years stepped up their bid to re-establish strong relations with the French Development Agency (AFD) setting up offices in Rwanda in March this year.
The French Culture Centre also resumed operations in Kigali, underlining commitment to developing cultural and people-to-people ties.
The two countries are also working closely through several international frameworks, including the International Organization of La Francophonie (IOF), which is currently headed by former Rwandan Foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo.
“I think Rwanda and France relations are going to deepen as strategic partners,” Buchanan concluded.