Major General Charles Karamba, Rwandan High Commissioner to the United Republic of Tanzania speech on 26th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda against the Tutsi
This year marks 26 years since humanity witnessed one of the most atrocious genocide in human memory.
*This speech was originally published in the Daily News.
This is the time of the year when Rwandans and friends of Rwanda come together to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. This year marks 26 years since humanity witnessed one of the most atrocious genocide in human memory.
This year’s theme, Remember-Unite-Renew, aptly encapsulates the journey that Rwanda has taken and what defines the Rwanda of today. The Government of Rwanda appreciates the role that the Government of the United Republic of Tanzania and notable individuals have played during the annual commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Government of Tanzania has stood together with Rwandans by sending high-level delegations during a day set aside for the commencement of the commemoration at both the national and embassy level. Last year, the Government of Tanzania dispatched a delegation on behalf of His Excellency President John Joseph Pombe Magufuli that comprised President Benjamin Mkapa and Prime Minister the Right Honourable Kassim Majaliwa during the 25th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
His Excellency President Mkapa graciously accepted the invitation by the Rwandan Community in Tanzania to grace the 20th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi as the guest of honour. It should be recalled that in 2009, the founding father of Tanzania, Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere was posthumously decorated with “Umurinzi” (“the Guardian”) medal, Rwanda’s Campaign against Genocide Medal, which was received by Mama Maria Nyerere on his behalf.
When the world impassively watched as the Genocide against the Tutsi peaked in Rwanda, Mwalimu Nyerere was among the very few voices of reason who denounced the killers outrightly, recognizing and calling the genocide by its true name.
During the annual commemoration which commences on the 7th of April, Rwandans and friends remember and honour the victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi which was meticulously planned, outrightly broadcasted and executed in the broad day light claiming over one million Tutsi in slightly over one hundred days as the international community apathetically watched.
During this time which lasts for 100 days, Rwandans and friends actively engage in activities of memorialization which include commemoration processes, memorial site visits, following testimonials from both victims and perpetrators, exhumation and burial ceremonies.
The National Commission on the Fight against Genocide organizes talks and conferences which draw upon specialists from many fields- historians, transitional justice experts, trauma specialists, human rights activities, peace and security experts among others. At the level of Rwandan embassies abroad, a day is designated where other missions and friends are invited to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
It is during this time that we salute the resilience and bravery of the survivors who bear the brunt of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi. In his speech during the 25th Commemoration, His Excellency President Paul Kagame reflected on a painful question that he was once asked in the following words: “Someone once asked me why we keep burdening survivors with the responsibility for our healing. It was a painful question, but I realized the answer was obvious. Survivors are the only ones with something left to give: their forgiveness”.
During this time, we are reminded of the Rwandan saying that “assistance from outside comes when the storm has calmed”. When the Genocide against the Tutsi razed Rwanda in 1994, the international community stood by and watched despite the fact that the Genocide was loudly and unashamedly broadcasted and executed in the broad day light by the perpetrators.
The Report by Igvar Carlson, the Chairman of the Independent Commission of Inquiry into the United Nations Actions during the Genocide in Rwanda, published on the 15/12/1999, concluded that: “In addition to not preventing the Genocide, the international community did not stop the killing once it began”.
It took the bravery of the young Rwandan men and women under the inspirational leadership of President Paul Kagame who was the Commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) which was the military wing of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to undertake the daunting task of halting the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi while at the same time liberating the country from the yoke of the genocidal government.
The gallant young men and women heeded the command of their leader and undertook the herculean task which was considered a “mission impossible” in certain quarters. The mission was painfully accomplished in a record three months. President Mkapa was right when he stated during the 20th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that “the Rwandan Patriotic Front singlehandedly managed to end the massive slaughter in Rwanda while the rest of the world did nothing to stop it”. The young men and women who lost their lives during the liberation struggle and the halting of the Genocide against the Tutsi are remembered. Their lives were not lost in vain. It is during this time that Rwandans take time to reflect on where the country was in 1994, in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, and where it is today. The Country was totally devastated with no hope of any recovery.
The post 1994 Government of Rwanda was faced with enormous challenges of rebuilding a deeply divided country with a destroyed political, economic, social, and legal infrastructure. His Excellency President Paul Kagame has offered a cogent and fitting description of the evolution of Rwanda as follows: “They dug a hole for us, they buried us in it. They didn’t know that we were seeds. We have proven to those who left us for dead that we were seeds that can only grow stronger and build a better life.”
In another speech delivered on the 20th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, the president rightly reminded the world that: “After 1994, everything was a priority and our people were completely broken. But we made three fundamental choices that guide us to this day. One- we chose to stay together. Twowe chose to be accountable to ourselves.
Three- we chose to think big.” It is these choices which constitute the strong pillars upon which Rwanda is built on today. Rwandans chose unity and reconciliation as a foundational basis for national economic development and social progress. It is as a result of the choices that Rwanda made, that a son of Pacifique Ntawunguka, Willy Maurice Mukiza, publicly stated in last year’s Rwandan National Dialogue how he and his siblings are beneficiaries of government scholarships whilst their father is still undertaking an impossible task of perpetuating the genocide against the Tutsi and destabilizing the peace and security of Rwanda. He confessed that he still does not understand how this government would bestow him such a privilege.
But the answer to his puzzle is simple- it is the choices that Rwanda has made. As we commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, it is equally important to address the recurring challenge posed by the final stage of genocide which is denial. Gregory H. Stanton in his seminal work entitled “The Ten Stages of Genocide”, rightly propounds that denial is the last stage of any genocide. Denial always follows a genocide. The 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is not unique in this sense.
The perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and their apologists have either totally denied that there was a genocide in Rwanda or have engaged in activities which either minimize or trivialize the Genocide. Denial of genocide rears its ugly head in the form of blaming what happened to the victims, trying to cover up the evidence and in the case of Rwanda advancing conspiracy theories of a double genocide.
The deniers of Genocide only mechanism to survive is to muddy the waters, distort, distract and hope that if they repeat lies often enough, they become real. They do so in order to perpetuate the genocide ideology that they sowed. It is therefore incumbent upon Rwandans, friends and the international community to take it upon themselves to not grant these friends of evil any platform to protract the genocide ideology, and to even go further and designate denial, minimization and trivialization of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi or any other genocide for that matter a crime.
In a similar vein, those countries which still harbor the genocide perpetrators and deniers of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi should, as a first resort, extradite them to Rwanda so that they are brought to justice, or, in the event that they cannot extradite them for whatever reason, try them in their own jurisdictions since genocide is a crime against humanity which knows no boundaries.
It is noteworthy that the United Nations has taken the first step in the right direction in dealing with denial of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi by designating the 7th of April of every year as “an International Day of Reflection of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda” through a 2018 UN General Assembly Resolution.
The African Union and the East African Community have over years organized commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. However, the international community still needs to do a lot in order to permanently uproot and eradicate the denial of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Our leadership has often had a word of caution to all those deniers who think that they can distabilise the peace and security that Rwanda enjoys today or perpetuate the genocide ideology. The force that defeated the genocide ideology and halted the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi has multiplied manifold times.
The choices that Rwandans made have helped build resilient institutions and an enlightened citizenry that can deal with any form of challenge posed to Rwanda, and for every Rwandan, the feeling is that anyone who harbors the idea of destabilizing the peace and security enjoyed by Rwandans today is forewarned. Examples are abundant of those who have tried to destabilize Rwanda and have ended up paying a very hefty price. Rwandans will forever continue to remember the lives that were lost and the blood that was shed during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Tears will be shed when we remember the dark history of our country. But above all, the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi will always give Rwandans the resolve to continue shedding their sweat to ensure that Never Again is indeed Never Again.
As H.E. President Paul Kagame once reflected: “We cannot turn the clock back nor can we undo the harm caused, but we have the power to determine the future and to ensure that what happened never happens again”