PARIS, May 24, 2018 (BSS/AFP) - President Emmanuel Macron, in a move likely to strengthen France's ties with Rwanda, on Wednesday backed the Rwandan candidate to head the world association of French-speaking nations.
After meeting in Paris with his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame, Macron said he supported a bid to appoint Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo as secretary general of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF).
"The Rwandan foreign minister has every competence to carry out this role," Macron said. "I will support her."
The Paris meeting comes after decades of tension between France and the small East African country over the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Rwanda has accused France of complicity in the mass killings through its support of ethnic Hutu forces who carried out most of the slaughter.
France has admitted it made mistakes but insists it never had a role in the massacre.
More than 800,000 lives were lost during the violence, most of them ethnic Tutsis and some of them moderate Hutus.
Kagame, who is also the current president of the African Union (AU), last visited the Elysee Palace in 2011, a year after then-president Nicolas Sarkozy admitted France had made "serious errors" in the genocide, but gave no apology.
Wednesday's meeting is the third between Macron and Kagame in a year.
Macron also said he would attend an AU summit in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott on July 1 and 2.
He praised Kagame for sharing his belief in "strong multilateralism," while Kagame said, "We hope to continue working together... both on the bilateral level and for the African continent."
Resolving "the complexities of the past... will probably take time," Macron said, adding however that "what brings us together are the questions of peace and security in Africa."
Rwanda was part of German East Africa from 1894 to 1918.
After World War I, it was administered by Belgium, becoming a republic in 1961, and has a long association with the international francophone community.
But in 2009, it joined the English-speaking Commonwealth after Mozambique, the only other member of that organisation not to have historic ties to Britain.
The OIF comprises 84 states and observers. Its current secretary-general is Michaelle Jean, 60, a Haitian-born Canadian, whose term expires in mid-October.
Ottawa is backing her for a second term.
Jean "actively promotes our priorities at the heart of the Francophonie, such as equality between men and women and entrepreneurial activities of youth and women," said Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada's minister responsible for the Francophonie.