Professor. Marc Lavergne, a French Senior Fellow Researcher (Emeritus) on the Geopolitics and Geostrategy of the Contemporary Middle East and Horn of Africa at the French National Center for Scientific Research.
French President Emmanuel Macron last week visited Rwanda, at the invitation of its President Paul Kagamé. A historic visit, after a quarter of century of cold and bitterness on both sides. Being in his early forties, the French president was the first who could finally close an ugly chapter of French recent history: the cold blood massacre of over 800 000 Rwandan civilians, men, women and children alike, between April and July 1994. Those Hutu military and politician racists, who planned and ordered this genocide against the Tutsi community (and the Hutus who tried to oppose it), had been trained and supported by France. Within three months, the French troops present in the country witnessed the massacres, without even trying to stop it. It took years of inquiries in the archives and testimonies of the survivors to present a comprehensive report assessing French responsibility in this last genocide of the 20th century. Certainly, President Macron fell short of admitting a French complicity, which would not have been accepted by its military hierarchy, although one could question the limit between non-intervention and complicity, in such a case. Whatever, this gesture opened the door to a fruitful economic co-operation between the two countries, Rwanda having earned the nickname of “African Tiger”, for its swift development policy. It is one of the smallest African countries, by size, but with one of the fastest growing output, and an emphasis on new technologies. And its army is one of the most efficient of the continent, being deployed beyond its borders in peacekeeping operations, as in Central African Republic today.
It came as a surprise that the German Chancellor, Mrs. Angela Merkel, decided at the same time to settle similar accounts with History: a long due apology for another genocide committed between 1904 and 1908 in the German colony which is now Namibia: half or more of the Herero and Nama peoples were then wiped off, in order to seize their lands and quell their resistance. More than one century passed, and no witness remains alive; so Mrs. Merkel was more at ease to admit German’s guilt. But she went farther in offering one billion US dollars of compensation to the victims’ offshoot.
These two parallel moves show that the colonial scars of Africa are not yet healed, and that it might request more than symbolic gestures to embark for a new phase of equal co-operation.