France made serious errors of judgment over the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and wants to ensure all those responsible for the slaughter are caught and punished, President Nicolas Sarkozy said on Thursday.

Sarkozy was visiting his counterpart Paul Kagame in the central African country to cement improved diplomatic relations following years of acrimony, recriminations and diplomatic standoffs over events surrounding the genocide.

The French president stopped short of an official apology for his country’s role during the killing of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus in less than 100 days.

“There was a serious error of judgment, a sort of blindness when we didn’t foresee the genocidal dimensions of the government,” he told News Agency reporters.

“Errors of assessment and political mistakes were made here, and they led to absolutely tragic consequences,” Sarkozy said.

The two countries broke off diplomatic ties in 2006 after a Paris judge accused Kagame and nine aides of shooting down former President Juvenal Habyarimana’s plane in April 1994 — the catalyst for the massacre.

The central African country rejected the charges and accused the administration of former President Francois Mitterrand of having trained and armed the Hutu militias behind the killing.

The two countries restored diplomatic ties in November 2009. During the three-year diplomatic rift, Rwanda joined two Anglophone blocs, the Commonwealth and the East African Community. The former Belgian colony also changed its language of instruction in schools to English from French.

SOURCED FROM REUTERS

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