Paris, July 19, 2011 (FH) - Rwandan President Paul Kagame is expected to make an official visit to France "in the coming weeks", a French Foreign Ministry spokesperson announced on Tuesday.

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His visit is likely to take place on September 12, according to the Rwandan embassy in France. The French ambassador to Rwanda also gave this date during a Bastille Day speech in Kigali, saying that Kagame's visit to France should "allow us to overcome a number of obstacles to normalization of relations between France and Rwanda".

This would be Kagame's first official visit to France and follows a thaw in relations marked by French President Nicolas Sarkozy's visit to Rwanda in February 2010.  Rwanda has accused France of complicity in the 1994 genocide, an accusation which Paris has always denied.

Rwandan Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo is currently in Paris, where she met on Tuesday with French Minister of Cooperation Henri de Raincourt. However, she was unable to meet with her French counterpart Alain Juppé, officially because of  his "heavy schedule".

Relations between Juppé and Mushikiwabo are famously bad. Juppé was Foreign Minister at the time of the 1994 genocide. His return to the same post in February this year was not welcomed by the Rwandan government.

Judicial cooperation

During his 2010 visit to Kigali, President Sarkozy admitted that France had made mistakes in Rwanda, although he did not admit to any French responsibility in the genocide. He promised that genocide suspects living in France would be found and punished. French lawyers investigating 20 such suspects were subsequently allowed to conduct investigations in Rwanda for the first time, although no trials have yet been held in France.

On July 4, the French National Assembly approved creation of a special judicial unit to handle "genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and acts of torture". The French Justice Minister told his Rwandan counterpart in April that this special unit would give the Rwandan cases top priority.


 © Hirondelle News Agency