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Africa

Juppé stays away as Rwandan leader visits France for reconciliation

media Rwandan President Paul Kagame © AFP/Thomas Samson

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda is holding talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday, as the two men continue efforts to rebuild the Franco-Rwandan relationship, which collapsed amid controversy over France's role in Rwanda's past.

Sarkozy visited Rwanda in 2010 to try to kickstart a reconciliation process, and Kagame told a gathering of Rwandan expats in Paris last night that he was keen to move the relationship ahead.

He noted that "there are people who are against this evolution" in Franco-Rwandan relations, but declared "we have gone beyond this type of politics, which is contemptible."

Many French generals and politicians are still angry after being accused by Kigali of collaborating with Rwanda's previous genocidal regime in its massacre of around 800,000 mainly ethnic Tutsis.

In Paris, a senior official in Sarkozy's office insisted "we are well aware that this visit won't please some people, but the president has decided to turn the page on France's painful relations with Rwanda."

It's unclear whether Sarkozy's own Foreign Minister, Alain Juppé, approves of the improving relationship. He was personally accused of complicity in the genocide in Rwanda's Mucyo Inquiry report.

Juppé has chosen to tour the Pacific rim, while Kagame is in Paris.

Meanwhile French generals have described the Kagame visit as an insult to the honour of the French armed forces, and they have called for the withdrawal of the Mucyo inquiry report, which they brand a lie.

Rwanda is a former Belgian colony, and the old French-speaking regime had close ties with Paris, but Paul Kagame has changed the country's official language to English, and cultivated close ties with London and Washington.

However Rwanda expert Andre Guichaoua notes that both Rwanda and France now have much to gain from a reconciliation.

Paris wishes to resurrect its influence in Africa's Great Lakes region, while Rwanda is keen to show London and Washington that his country is not dependent entirely on them.

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