KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron has been welcomed by Rwandan President Paul Kagame to start a key visit Thursday in which the French leader tries to mend relations with the central African country 27 years after the genocide.
Macron arrived in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, early Thursday and went to the presidential residence to meet Kagame.
Macron then toured a memorial in the capital to the frenzied 1994 slaughter that killed an estimated 800,000 people, mainly minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus who tried to protect them from Hutu extremists.
Macron’s trip builds on a series of French efforts since his election in 2017 to repair ties between the two countries.
Two reports completed in March and in April that examined France’s role in the genocide helped clear a path for Macron’s visit, the first by a French president in 11 years.
The previous visit, by Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010, was the first by a French leader after the 1994 massacre sent relations into a tailspin. Rwanda’s government and genocide survivor organizations often accused France of training and arming militias and former government troops who led the genocide.
Kagame, who has been Rwanda’s de facto leader since 1994 and its president since 2000, has won praise abroad for restoring order and making advances in economic development and health care. But rights watchdogs, dissidents, and others accuse Kagame of harsh rule.