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Sarkozy to visit Rwanda as France relations improve

Bernard Kouchner at a memorial in Kigali (January 2010)
Frence's foreign minister visited Kigali shortly after ties were restored

Nicolas Sarkozy will travel to Rwanda next month to pay the first visit by a French president to Kigali since the 1994 genocide, Rwandan officials say.

Rwanda's foreign ministry made the announcement after the new French ambassador presented his credentials.

The states severed ties in 2006 after a French judge said President Paul Kagame helped spark the genocide, while Rwanda accused France of arming Hutu militias.

In just 100 days, some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered.

'Common history'

Rwanda and France agreed to restore relations in November, three years after investigative judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere accused nine Tutsi officials of being behind the murder of President Juvenal Habyaremana.

The shooting down of his plane on 6 April 1994 triggered the mass killings of minority Tutsis by extremist Hutu militias.

We have had difficulties. We are ready to discuss them and move on
Louise Mushikiwabo
Rwandan Foreign Minister

The Tutsi-led government of Mr Kagame had already accused France of backing and arming groups held responsible.

Earlier this month, a Rwandan government enquiry concluded that Hutu extremists within Habyaremana's own inner circle had planned his assassination months beforehand and that France was not involved.

However, it noted that French military officials stationed in Rwanda as part of a military agreement with the government had access to the plane wreckage.

The enquiry said French officials had disappeared with the aircraft's flight recorder and debris from the missiles fired at it.

During a recent visit by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner to Kigali, his Rwandan counterpart said the two countries had to move forward together.

"We have a common history. We have had difficulties. We are ready to discuss them and move on," Louise Mushikiwabo said.

The resumption of ties came on the same weekend as Rwanda was admitted to the Commonwealth, an association of mainly former British colonies.

In 2008, the government decided all education would be taught in English instead of French.



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