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Former colony wants France to leave. This African nation says welcome!

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France has held political, military and economic power in Africa for decades, but is scaling back its influence on the continent amid strong resentment from many of its former colonies. However, there is one country that is an exception: Rwanda.

Like other African countries Seeks to weaken French influenceDespite decades of frosty relations between Rwanda and Paris over France’s role in the anti-fascist movement, Rwanda has embraced France, celebrating French culture, language and cuisine. 1994 Rwandan genocideIn return, French companies are expanding their investments in Rwanda.

Rwanda’s long-time leader advocates a policy of détente Paul Kagame., winning France a much-needed security partner in Africa and providing Rwanda with millions of dollars in development and trade funds. The warming relationship between the two countries is also rare good news for French President Emmanuel Macron. It sparked outrage across Africa and is Crushed by the far right In this month’s European Parliament elections.

“Kagame is our partner,” French Minister of State Hervé Béville said in an interview in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

Relations between the two countries have been fraught with diplomatic rancor and hostility for decades. Kagame has accused France, and particularly the government of then-President Francois Mitterrand, of enabling Rwandan officials to orchestrate the 1994 genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 people.

In the early 21st century, relations between the two countries were severely strained, and Rwanda even abandoned French in favor of English in the classroom, expelled the French ambassador, closed French international schools and cultural centers, and blocked French national radio.

But things started to change after Macron came to power. In 2021, he commissioned a report Summarize Although France did not take part in the genocide, it bears “grave and undeniable” responsibility for it. release Weeks later, the European Union published its own report and accused Paris of providing “unwavering support” to a genocidal government in order to maintain its influence.

Mr. Macron Visited Rwanda Soon after the report was released, a series of events triggered a rapprochement in relations between the two countries.

By mid-2021, France had a new ambassador to Rwanda. The French Development Agency opened a new office in Kigali. France Donate Hundreds of thousands of doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered during the epidemic.

French conglomerates are investing millions of dollars in real estate, technology, entertainment and tourism. Last month, leaders from more than 50 French companies attended African CEO Forum French officials said that in Kigali, some people, including the head of Total energy company, Met Mr. Kagame in person.

In Rwanda, French has been reintroduced into schools. Mr Macron has opened a new French cultural centre. Rwandan young people now eat in restaurants serving French cuisine. Rwandan artists and fashion designers Perform and exhibit their works Major cultural institutions in France.

“Everywhere you look, French and France are everywhere,” said Mashauri Muhindo Memcan, a teacher in Kigali, who said that a few years ago he was the only French teacher in his school, but now he leads a growing department with six French teachers.

For France, the new engagement with Rwanda reflects Mr Macron’s efforts to Find allies and business partners On such a continent, China and Russia yes Struggle for influence.

But French minister Béville said the move was also aimed at involving younger generations in discussions about the past to “avoid repeating the same mistakes.” “We need to be vigilant,” he told a group of French and Rwandan students in Kigali on a recent afternoon, wearing a white shirt and dark tie. Macron style.

Despite the warming relations between the two countries, differences remain.

France accuses Rwanda of supporting rebels wreaking havoc in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo, a charge the Rwandan government has long denied.

Rwanda remains angry that France did not take more responsibility for the genocide. These tensions surfaced during the 30th anniversary of the genocide in April, when Mr Macron fall back Admit that France failed to stop the genocide.

But Rwanda and France have solidified their defence cooperation, despite French troops driven out From many African countries, including Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso.

Despite its small size, Rwanda has used its military to exert influence internationally, particularly through peacekeeping operations. Federico Donelli, a professor of international relations at the University of Trieste who has written extensively about the Rwandan army, said France, fearing another military intervention, saw Rwanda as an alternative to deploying troops on African soil.

This is the case in Mozambique, where France supports the deployment of Rwandan troops fight insurgency in Cabo Delgado provinceThe region is home to multi-billion dollar natural gas projects owned by French energy company Total.

Mr Donelli said France was also promoting Rwanda’s involvement in Mozambique in the European Union. Funding the Rwanda Mission The value reaches 20 million euros, or about 21.4 million US dollars.

“France sees Rwanda as the perfect partner for its new Africa project,” Mr. Donnelly added. “The political costs for Paris, both domestically and on the continent, are lower. And Kigali stands to gain reputational and economic benefits.”

In addition to security, France has also increased development funding for the landlocked country. French Development Agency spend 500 million euros to create jobs and renovate medical facilities. In April this year, the two countries signed a development partnership worth 400 million euros (about 429 million US dollars).

France also provides vocational training to thousands of Rwandan university students, including in mechatronics, a hybrid field combining mechanics and electronics.

On Monday, several French officials visited a French-funded university in the town of Tomba, about 20 miles northwest of Kigali, where students gathered in classrooms and labs to learn about industrial automation and robotic systems.

“Rwanda is willing to change, improve and even build systems that can benefit all of Africa,” said Arthur Germond, Rwanda country director for the French Development Agency, who led the mission. “We want to help realize this vision.”

For some Rwandans, the changing relationship heralds new opportunities.

For years, comedian Hervé Kimene avoided performing in French as Rwanda moved away from the language and his audiences dwindled. But as relations between the two countries improve, he is now setting up a comedy club to perform stand-up, poetry and music exclusively in French.

In doing so, he said, he hopes to reach Rwandans old and young, as well as French-speaking students and professionals from other parts of the continent, primarily West Africa, who now call Rwanda home.

For French Minister Béville, strengthening ties with Rwanda will require efforts to address challenges facing both countries, such as climate change. But it will also require France to take proactive steps to reflect on the past, including Trial of genocide suspects still living in France.

Bever said that was the only way to make improved relations “irreversible” for whoever succeeds Macron in the next French election. “Words are good,” he said, “but actions are better.”

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