By DOUGLAS GAKUMBA
Seventh April 2023 will mark the 29th commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
This commemoration period is an appropriate time to not only reflect on the history and lessons from the heinous actions and crimes that brought Rwanda to a point of despair of tragic proportions in 1994.
It is also an appropriate time to review and reflect upon the progress made in the recovery, growth and justice process in Rwanda over the last 29 years.
Every year, commemorative activities are organised across Rwanda and around the world from April 7 to July 7 to reflect on the 1994 genocide that claimed lives of more than a million victims in 100 days.
On the continent, April 7 also marks the African Union Day of Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
Fittingly, the Rwanda High Commission in Zambia will on April 7 this year commemorate this period together with the Rwandan community in Zambia and friends of Rwanda.
The commemoration aims at honouring victims, comforting survivors, and paying tribute to Rwandans who stopped the genocide and liberated the country.
It provides an opportunity for Rwandans and the international community to unite and draw lessons from the tragic history with the goal of fighting hate speech and preventing future genocides around the world.
Rwanda firmly believes that it is imperative to continue urging the international community to fight genocide. Though genocide against the Tutsi was put to an end in 1994, fugitives from the former government of Rwanda, the army, and militia are still at large and have ever since been spreading this genocidal ideology from the counties where they are situated.
From afar, this ideology is being spread through social media platforms and online channels, and in some higher learning institutions, so-called researchers are spreading revisionist narratives of the 1994 genocide.
Undeniably, Rwanda’s history is more often than not seen through the unfortunate prism of the genocide, which involved the sheer gruesome mass killing of the Tutsi population and moderate Hutu, instigated and carried out by the genocidal regime of the time.
This was preceded by the unrestrained proliferation of ethnic oriented politics and division by the former regime targeting a particular ethnic group of Rwandans, a divisive ploy retained from the colonial period.
During the 100 apocalyptic days that ran from April 7, 1994 to mid-July 1994, a million people were systematically murdered, making it one of the most fatal human tragedies recorded in the late 20th century.
The genocidal government had led a well-orchestrated propaganda campaign of hate, disseminated through popular mediums such as radio and newspapers.
Government affiliated youth militia known as the Interahamwe – “those who attack together” – were recruited and trained to carry out the atrocious act of ethnic cleansing.
Government troops and the Interahamwe set up strategic roadblocks around the country, as the carnage targeted against the Tutsi rapidly spread from the capital, Kigali, to the rural communities in the countryside.
In some churches where members of the Tutsi population had gathered seeking refuge, some priests helped point out who to execute. Ordinary citizens also joined in the unthinkable act of slaughtering their Tutsi neighbours and, in some cases of intermarriage, their own family members.
To compound the human catastrophe further Rwanda’s greatest hour of need was met with non-action or intervention of any significance from the international community.
Today, Rwanda calls upon the international community particularly all United Nations member states to act in accordance with the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide so as to ensure that there is no repetition of events of the kind that occurred in Rwanda in 1994 and to put the slogan “NEVER AGAIN” into reality.”
This includes UN member states to arrest and prosecute identified and confirmed genocide fugitives residing or hiding in foreign countries, as adopted by the UN Security Council in its Resolution No. 2150 of April 16, 2014, asking member states to judge or extradite genocide fugitives on their territories. Rwanda will continue advocating for the remaining countries, which have not yet accessed the UN Convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide, to do so and to remind those that haven’t yet enacted laws punishing the crime of any genocide recognised by the United Nations or international courts, as well as any other act leading to genocide ideology, genocide denial, or its revisionism as defined by international instruments.
Rwanda remains committed to the remembrance and commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi for the memory and education of future generations. With genocide ideologists that continue to perpetuate extremist agendas still lurking in different parts of the world, members of the Rwandan diaspora are therefore strongly urged to not fall victim to extremist propaganda or entrapped to become hostages of misinformation.
For as long as a concerted effort and renewed commitment between Rwanda and the international community to forge a resilient fight to clamp down on genocide impunity and ideology, fugitives and suspects alike will not be able to shield themselves from the long arm of the law any longer.
The author is Second Counsellor at the Rwanda High Commission in Lusaka