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Rwanda mourns the dead, 20 yrs. since genocide

KIGALI, Rwanda -- Rwanda holds solemn commemorations Monday for the 20th anniversary of the genocide in which 800,000 died, a time of intense national grief, but overshadowed by renewed claims France was complicit in the killings.

Official mourning, which began three months ago with a flame of remembrance touring the small nation from village to village, culminates Monday when the torch arrives at the national genocide memorial.

President Paul Kagame will light a flame that will burn for 100 days, the length of time it took government soldiers and Hutu militia to kill hundreds of thousands of people, largely Tutsis.

Custodians of the memorial say it contains the bones of a quarter of a million people killed in massacres of brutal intensity, now carefully stored in vast concrete tombs.

Wreathes will also be laid, before ceremonies in Kigali's football stadium, where U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and several African leaders are due to attend.

But the commemorations have been overshadowed by a furious diplomatic row with France, which has downgraded a top level delegation to send its ambassador in Kigali.

The French government initially announced that it was pulling out of the events after Kagame again accused France, an ally of the Hutu nationalist government prior to the 1994 killings, of aiding the murder of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis.

Speaking to the weekly Jeune Afrique, Kagame denounced the “direct role of Belgium and France in the political preparation for the genocide,” and said French soldiers — who helped train the army, as well as being accused of aiding the killers to escape — were both accomplices and “actors” in the bloodbath.

Paris has repeatedly denied the accusations and insisted that French forces had striven to protect civilians.

Former colonial power Belgium, which unlike France has apologized to Rwanda for failing to prevent the genocide, has sent

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Rwanda holds solemn commemorations Monday for the 20th anniversary of the genocide in which 800,000 died, a time of intense national grief, but overshadowed by renewed claims France was complicit in the killings.



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