France Supports Rwandan OIF Candidate, Easing Tensions

Emmanuel Macron

In a move that may ease tensions between France and Rwanda, French president Emmanuel Macron has thrown his support behind a Rwandan candidate to head the worldwide group for French-speaking nations.

The candidate, Louise Mushikiwabo, is the foreign minister of the African nation and is running to become the next secretary general of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie, or OIF.

Macron made these comments after a meeting on Wednesday with Paul Kagame, who has president of Rwanda since 2000. This has been the third meeting between the two presidents in the last year, but the first time that Kagame has visited Elysee Palace since 2011, when Nicolas Sarkozy was in office.

On that occasion, Sarkozy admitted that France made "serious errors" during the Rwandan genocide, which took place over 100 days in 1994. The conflict pitted the Hutu ethnic majority against the minority Tutsi, as well as the Pygmy Batwa; somewhere between 500,000 and 1,000,000 people are believed to have been killed, including 70 percent of the entire Tutsi people.

Rwanda has accused France of complicity in the genocide due to their support of the Hutu people. Though Sarkozy, Macron and others have admitted to having made mistakes in the conflict, they insist that they did not take part in any of the massacres.

Building relationships with African nations has been one of the goals of Macron's presidency, which began last year. After his meeting with Kagame, he agreed to attend a meeting of the African Union in Nouakchott in July.

"We hope to continue working together... both on the bilateral level and for the African continent," he said. He added that while the two countries' past issues would take longer to fully resolve, they are both committed to the spread of security and peace throughout Africa.

Historically, Rwanda was part of German East Africa beginning in 1894, but Germany's defeat in World War I saw the nascent nation transferred to French-speaking Belgium. It gained independence in 1961 and since then has been part of both the Francophone community as well as the Anglophone Commonwealth association; it is the only member without a historic tie to Britain. The country's official languages include French and English, as well as Swahili and Kinyarwanda.

The OIF's current leader, Michaelle Jean, is a Canadian born in Haiti; her term expires in October, but she is running for a second term, with Canada's backing.

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