French presidency: France, Rwanda agree to restore diplomatic relations

Sunday, November 29, 2009

France and Rwanda agree to restore ties

PARIS — France and Rwanda have agreed to restore diplomatic ties, the French president’s office said Sunday, three years after relations were severed when a Paris judge accused Rwandan President Paul Kagame of ordering his predecessor’s assassination.

President Nicolas Sarkozy’s chief of staff, Claude Gueant, had discussions with Kagame in Rwanda’s capital Sunday, and the men “decided to re-establish diplomatic relations between the two countries,” a statement from the president’s office said.

France and Rwanda have frequently sparred over the 1994 genocide in the African country, and Rwanda cut off diplomatic relations with France in November 2006 over a French probe into late former President Juvenal Habyarimana’s mysterious assassination.

Rwanda’s genocide began hours after a plane carrying Habyarimana was shot down as it approached the capital, Kigali, on April 6, 1994. About 500,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis, were massacred in 100 days of frenzied killing led by radical Hutus. The killing was only stopped after Kagame and the Tutsi army subdued the country.

In 2006, former French investigating judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere — who probed the downing of Habyarimana’s plane because the crew was French — accused Kagame of ordering the assassination and accused nine other ranking Rwandans of plotting the attack.

Kagame rejected Bruguiere’s charge. Rwanda also has maintained that French soldiers in the country at the time bore responsibility in the slaughter of minority Tutsis by Hutu extremists.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said the restoring of ties was “the culmination of a long and patient effort between Paris and Kigali.”

“The 1994 genocide will remain in our memories,” the minister said in a statement. “France will not forget any of its victims.”

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