As French President, Emmanuel Macron has asked Rwandans to forgive France for its role in the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which about 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus died.
This happened at the genocide memorial in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, where he said France had not heeded warnings of impending carnage and had for too long “valued silence over examination of the truth”.
But France had not been an accomplice in the killings, Mr Macron added.
Rwanda’s leader praised his speech.
President Paul Kagame said, “His words were something more valuable than an apology. They were the truth.” He called it “an act of tremendous courage”.
In March, a French expert commission found that France under the late President François Mitterrand had borne “heavy and overwhelming responsibility” for the genocide but had not been complicit. The report said France had been “blind” to genocide preparations.
“Only those who went through that night can perhaps forgive, and in doing so give the gift of forgiveness,” Mr Macron said at the memorial, where more than 250,000 victims are buried.
“I hereby humbly and with respect stand by your side today, I come to recognise the extent of our responsibilities.”
A Hutu elite ruled Rwanda when the genocide took place, in April-June 1994, but they were later ousted by the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) under Paul Kagame.
Mitterrand had close ties to former Rwandan President Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu.
“The killers who stalked the swamps, the hills, the churches, did not have the face of France. France was not an accomplice,” Mr Macron said.
But he said that in 1994 “France did not understand that by wanting to block a regional conflict or a civil war, it stood de facto by a genocidal regime”