Valérie Mukabayire is president of the NGO Avega Agahozo, an association that helps widows of the genocide. Founded in 1995, it offers medical, financial and psychological support to survivors who lost a spouse during the Rwandan tragedy which left a million dead between April and July 1994. Thanks to various socio-economic programs, it also participates to national reconstruction and reconciliation. This association, which had 25,000 members when it was created, now numbers nearly 19,000.
Like other members of associations of victims and survivors of the Tutsi genocide, Valérie Mukabayire, part of whose family was massacred, was invited to attend Emmanuel Macron’s speech, Thursday, May 27, at the Genocide Memorial from Kigali.
What was your reaction after Emmanuel Macron’s speech?
This speech was awaited by Rwandans with great impatience. I listened to it carefully and am very satisfied with it. He even touched me. I found the French President sympathetic and appreciated the fact that he recognizes France’s responsibility [dans le génocide des Tutsi]. This is also what was written in the report of the Duclert commission which was unveiled at the end of March after the opening of the national archives in France. But today, this responsibility has been pronounced before us on several occasions, by the French President and in a place of memory. I am touched.
What are the words that you remember?
It is obviously the term “responsibility” but also the word “debt” [« dette envers les victimes pour tant de silences passés »]. The French president said he was there to recognize France’s responsibility and I find that courageous on his part. He was also very clear on the fact that there had only been one genocide, that of the Tutsi. These are words that we love to hear and that reassure. I hope they will silence the revisionists who claim that there was another genocide [qui aurait été commis par les Tutsi contre les Hutu, après juillet 1994].
The French president also declared that justice would prosecute all genocidal refugees on his territory. This situation is no longer tolerable. Here I am also reassured on this very important point.
But he made no apologies. Would you have liked this term to be pronounced?
No, because I think it is not important. Recognition of fault and support in pain is worth much more than an apology. Mr. Macron said he understood what we went through. I felt compassion.
I think that today a step has been taken and, in my eyes, that is the main one. The main thing is to strengthen this relationship of friendship that exists between France and Rwanda. It is good now, and that is what must be preserved.
Emmanuel Macron said that “only those who have been through the night can perhaps forgive, give us the gift of forgiving ourselves. You lost your husband and many loved ones during the genocide. Do you forgive France?
Twenty-seven years later, the survivors of the genocide reached a point in their history when they even forgave the executioners who exterminated their entire families. They forgave killers, genocidaires. Today we live together on the hills only because we have managed to forgive each other. It was the price to pay to be able to live in peace. Forgiveness is in our hearts, our lives, our culture today. Since we have forgiven our genocidaires for the crimes they committed, we can forgive everyone.
Even those who don’t ask you?
Our hearts must remain open, because we want to look to the future. It is the only way. We have been through the night, the atrocity of genocide, but we must move forward again and again. So we give our forgiveness to all who want to receive it.