ADDRESS BY PRESIDENT PAUL KAGAME
Visit of President Emmanuel Macron to Rwanda
Kigali, 27 May 2021
First, I want to welcome you, President Macron, my friend, and your
delegation, to Rwanda.
Today is a moment to speak to the present and to the future, while
reflecting on the past that brought us here.
The President has just made an important statement at the Kigali
Genocide Memorial. This was a powerful speech, with special
meaning for what is taking place now, and which will resonate well
His words were something more valuable than an apology: they
were the truth.
Speaking the truth is risky. But you do it because it is right, even
when it costs you something, even when it is unpopular. Despite
some loud noises and voices, President Macron took this step.
Politically and morally, this was an act of tremendous courage.
These risks paid off because there was good faith on both sides. It
was important not to rush the process. The facts had to be properly
established. Our respective societies also needed the chance to
debate and deliberate. One step led to another. And that is how we
got to this point, which is itself another step, and a major one.
In Rwanda and France, so many individuals, who are too numerous
to name, have kept asking questions, year after year, demanding
clarity. They come from civil society, academia, and journalism.
Some are simply concerned citizens. We would not be here today
without their tireless efforts, and I wish to record our profound
thanks and appreciation.
The truth heals.
This is the principle upon which Rwanda’s entire project of national
unity and reconciliation is based. That has been our experience as
Rwandans. There is no shortcut.
Our conviction, from the beginning, was that the process of
reckoning with the role of France had to follow the same logic. And
in any case, we knew it could not be harder than reconciling with
No grain of truth has been sacrificed. But the weight of
responsibility has been put back where it belongs: with those who
made the decisions. Whether or not there are trials, justice is also
rendered by the court of history. And the work of historical
documentation must continue, jointly.
This quest for truth has occurred in the context of the complexity
of the challenges that Rwanda has faced over the last 27 years.
Rwanda could easily have remained a failed state. Some may even
have felt vindicated by that. Others actually worked to make sure
that Rwanda failed.
But we worked together as a nation to design solutions for our
unique challenges. And indeed, on every dimension, including
human rights, the Rwanda of today is objectively a nation
transformed for the better. We continue to exist as a united people,
against all odds. And we are constantly striving to be better still.
There is a way of looking at Africa, from the outside, that
automatically associates every success with some huge cost in
terms of fundamental values and freedoms.
This is not to say that Africa has no bad actors. It does. They are
there; they may even be numerous. But no more so than
everywhere else in the world. The difference is that Africa as a
whole comes to be defined by those bad actors, whereas
elsewhere, these bad actors are exceptions.
This assumption creates a reference point where Africa is always
down, while others are up. It secures those others in the conviction
that they have a natural right to do and say whatever they want in
relation to Africa, to give lessons and pass judgment on our
choices. Unfortunately, some of our own in Africa also participate
in this negative enterprise.
The dynamic goes on almost forever, as if it is unstoppable or
inevitable. But it is not. You stop it by doing what you believe is
right, and which, in the end, may indeed prove to be right.
The veneer of moral superiority is very thin, once you start to scrape
at it. Beneath it hides racism, a denial of the intrinsic and equal
worth of every human being. It was racism that made a foreseeable
genocide in Africa seem tolerable.
Racism and genocide ideology exist on the same continuum. They
are forms of dehumanisation, and they pose a growing threat to
society in every continent. Our civilised world must come together
to fight racism and genocide ideology in a concerted and
There are attitudes inherited from the past that have needed to
change, for a long time. And I want to say that President Macron is
among those who realised that things need to change, and he is
taking a strong stand in trying to bring about that change.
It is not about speaking on Africa’s behalf, but rather ensuring that
the voices of Rwandans and Africans can join together with the rest
of the world in pursuit of common objectives, irrespective of where
we come from.
President Macron is someone who listens, and he is committed to
supporting Africa based on what Africa itself has chosen. This is
different, it is better, and it can last.
Fundamentally, this visit is about the future, not the past.
France and Rwanda are going to relate much better, to the benefit
of both our peoples, economically, politically, and in terms of
But the relationship between our two countries will never be entirely
conventional. There is a special familiarity resulting from the
complex and terrible history we share, for better or for worse. We
have chosen to make it for the better.
We wish to form a strong and sustainable relationship, based on
priorities that matter to both Rwanda and France. This includes
many of the items discussed in our bilateral meeting today, such as
investment, digitisation, gender equality, climate change, cultural
exchange, and support for entrepreneurship, small businesses,
start-ups, and especially youth empowerment. Rwanda shall be a
strong partner in all of these areas.
Mr President, I once again thank you and your delegation for being
with us here today. I thank everyone who is here for your kind
attention. I now invite my friend President Macron to make his
statement, and then we will be happy to take your questions.