France's new envoy to Rwanda seeks better ties

11th December 2012, Comments 0 comments

France's new ambassador to Rwanda, Michel Flesch, on Tuesday called for better ties between Paris and Kigali, which have had strained relations since the 1994 genocide in the central African country.

"The first thing that we need to commit to is to talk more, to dialogue more," Flesch told journalists after presenting his credentials. "In furthering dialogue, we will find that on the immense majority of big international subjects, the positions of France and Rwanda are not very far apart."

"What is most important if we want things to go well is to look ahead, to see what we can do together that is positive," he added.

France has had no ambassador in Rwanda since the start of the year, when Kigali refused to accept Paris's previous choice, named by the government of the time.

The weekly Jeune Afrique reported that Kigali turned down the envoy envisaged by Paris, Helene Le Gal, on the grounds that she was too close to then foreign minister Alain Juppe, who was considered hostile to the regime of Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

During the genocide of 1994, which was ended after three months by Kagame's Tutsi rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front, now the movement in power, Juppe was already France's foreign minister.

When he took up the portfolio anew in 2011, Juppe said he had no intention either of "shaking the hand" of Kagame or of visiting Rwanda, as long as a report was still at large which accused France of complicity with the Hutu militias that carried out the genocide.

Juppe did not meet his Rwandan counterpart, Louise Mushikiwabo, when she visited Paris in July 2011, and he was absent when Kagame came to the French capital two months later.

Since then, the left wing was returned to power in France and Juppe was replaced by the Socialist Laurent Fabius.

After his press conference, Flesch, 58, was due to make a private visit to the genocide memorial in Kigali. According to the United Nations, at least 800,000 people died, mostly from the Tutsi minority.

© 2012 AFP

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