France to open Mitterrand's Rwanda archives

Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide, at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center in Kigali
President Paul Kagame and first lady Jeanette Kagame light the Rwandan genocide flame of hope, known as the "Kwibuka" (Remembering), to commemorate the 1994 Genocide, at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center in Kigali, Rwanda April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Jean Bizimana/File Photo

PARIS, April 7 (Reuters) - France will open the Rwanda archives of former French president Francois Mitterrand, as part of an effort to better understand the nation's role in the African country during its 1990s genocide, President Emmanuel Macron's office said on Wednesday.

Macron's office said the decision to make the 1990-94 archives freely accessible was aimed at creating the conditions for understanding the role of France in Rwanda.

"France joins the Rwandan people to commemorate the genocide of the Tutsis and expresses ... its compassion and solidarity towards those who escaped and towards the families of the victims," the statement said.

France will also open the archives of former Prime Minister Edouard Balladur as well as all documents cited in a recent report about the Rwanda genocide.

Last month, a commission established by Macron concluded France had been blinded by its colonial attitude to Africa to events leading up to the genocide and consequently bore "serious and overwhelming" responsibility.

However, in the nearly 1,000-page report, the commission absolved France of complicity in the genocide.

During the genocide between April and July of 1994, some 800,000 people were slaughtered, mainly from the ethnic Tutsi minority but also moderate Hutus.

Ever since the genocide, critics of France's role have said that then-President Mitterrand failed to prevent the massacres or even supported the Hutu-led government that orchestrated the killings.

For background on the Rwanda commission, click on:

Reporting by GV De Clercq and Richard Lough

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