Kigali fell silent on Sunday April 7. In the deserted streets, the shops kept their curtains closed. Not a red motorcycle taxi stationed at the edge of the sidewalks. Even the church bells have stopped ringing. Sealed off for a few hours by the police, the Rwandan capital commemorated the thirtieth anniversary of the Tutsi genocide. “Kwibuka,” the authorities urge: “Remember” April 7, 1994, when the worst crime began. “Remember” how, for three months, Rwandans meticulously massacred at least 800,000 other Rwandans.

While mass graves continue to be uncovered in the country, Kigali does not forget, even if Rwanda has changed profoundly over the last three decades. Now renowned for its order, its impeccable asphalt and its perfectly trimmed groves, the capital has become the showcase of the extraordinary destiny of this African country of the Great Lakes, the symbol of its lightning development without equal on the continent, of its economic success and its political model.

A man, as adored as he is criticized, carries this rebirth: Paul Kagame, 66 years old, thirty of whom are at the head of Rwanda. A leader with authoritarian governance who is seeking a fourth term in mid-July that he has little risk of losing. It was he who, at the head of the Rwandan Patriotic Front, put an end to the genocide in July 1994 by taking power in Kigali, hunting down and then tracking down those responsible for the massacres. He again who, three decades later, rekindled the flame of the Gisozi Memorial, where rest the remains of 250,000 victims of the last genocide of the 20th century.

The international community singled out

Then the official commemorations continued at the BK Arena, a huge enclosure with walls, ceilings and floors covered in black for the occasion. The room, where 5,000 people had gathered, was only illuminated by a work symbolizing a tree whose “roots represent the memory of the past” and the branches, “the protection that families did not have during the genocide and on which they can now count,” according to the Rwandan government.

The genocidal danger is a matter of the present, explained Paul Kagame in an offensive speech lasting more than half an hour, responding to the criticisms of the international community. While several reports attest to Kigali’s active support for the March 23 Movement rebellion, which has resumed its offensive in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda is being summoned by several states, including France, to stop providing aid to the insurgents. The Rwandan president has, in essence, invoked the right and even the necessity to defend oneself. “We are witnessing an indifference similar to that which prevailed between 1990 and 1994. Are we looking for another million deaths? », had warned, before him, Jean-Damascene Bizimana, the minister of national unity and civic engagement.

After 1994, “genocidal forces fled to the DRC, with external assistance. They carried out hundreds of attacks over five years. The survivors are still in eastern Congo (…). Their goals have not changed and the only reason their group, known as the FDLR [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda], has not been dismantled is because it serves secret interests.” , said the president. He added that “Rwanda takes all its responsibilities for its own security. We will always pay maximum attention to it, even if we are alone.”

Increasingly critical of Rwandan power, the international community has been particularly targeted by the Rwandan leader. “It is [she] who has let us all down, whether through contempt or cowardice,” he declared in front of eleven heads of state and government. Several former presidents were present, including Bill Clinton, in power in Washington during the genocide, and Nicolas Sarkozy, who came in a personal capacity, his role as administrator of the Accor group regularly taking him to Kigali.

Quack at the Elysée

France, which Paul Kagame has accused several times in the past of complicity in the genocide, was particularly singled out. The Rwandan president notably mentioned the case of Callixte Mbarushimana, who is allegedly involved in the murder of several dozen people during the genocide, including a cousin of Paul Kagame, and still lives in France.

Arrested at the request of the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity committed in eastern DRC in 2009, this former United Nations employee was released for lack of evidence in 2011 after a year of detention. He returned to France where he has enjoyed the status of political refugee since 2003, despite a judicial investigation opened after a complaint for genocide filed by the collective of civil parties for Rwanda in 2008. France has not started to try suspected genocidaires than in 2014, at a rate of two trials per year. A slowness of justice that the Rwandan authorities and human rights NGOs regret.

No current French president has attended the launch of the genocide commemorations for thirty years. Emmanuel Macron decided that, for the thirtieth anniversary either, the highest level of state would not be in Kigali, arguing a “agenda problem” since he was at the same time on the Glières plateau, in Haute-Savoie, to pay tribute to the resistance fighters of the Second World War. He instructed Stéphane Séjourné, his Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Hervé Berville, his Secretary of State for the Sea, of Rwandan origin, to go there, a sign that the relationship between Paris and Kigali is still not completely soothed.

In 2021, a major step had been taken. A speech by Emmanuel Macron made it possible to recognize the “overwhelming responsibility [of France] in a spiral that led to the worst”, but without evoking complicity or guilt. These unprecedented words made it possible to put an end to twenty-five years of diplomatic crisis. This year, France did not want to go any further. “I think I said everything on May 27, 2021, when I was among you. I have no word to add, no word to subtract from what I told you that day… And to tell you that my will, that of France, is that we continue to move forward together, hand in hand. hand,” the French president said in a video broadcast on Sunday.

Words that sound like a backpedal after the elements of language that the Elysée had leaked on Thursday. “The Head of State will recall in particular that, when the phase of total extermination against the Tutsi began, the international community had the means to know and act (…) and that France, which could have stopped the genocide with its Western and African allies, did not have the will,” it was then written. On Sunday, with verve, Paul Kagame made his dissatisfaction known to Paris. And concluded towards the entire community: “Our people will never – I mean never – be left for dead again.”