In honour of those who perished 18 years ago
Eighteen years ago, Rwanda was pronounced dead. In the words of Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Rwanda clinically died. Within just a hundred days, over a million Rwandans had been butchered. On average there were 10,000 murders each day, 400 per hour, seven per minute.
This was indeed the fasted mass slaying in modern history. The United States and the rest of the ‘civilized world’ stood by as Rwanda quickly slipped into a bloody genocide, one of the most horrific in the twentieth century.
And later as Bill Clinton, then US President predicted, had the US committed troops to the peace keeping mission, half of the victims, probably 500,000 and more could have been saved. That was not to be, for Rwanda was not among the scheme of things for the Security Council and the most powerful nation on earth.
Do we have international mechanisms to prevent such atrocities from happening in the future? Can ‘Never Again’ be taken seriously as never again? Or will this expression remain an empty catch-phrase, a litany to be sung by international bureaucrats and politicians for the sake of soothing the ears of the fatigued human race?
It is exactly two days since the week-long commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi started. Rwandans have been focused on what has been an extra-ordinary journey from the horrendous tragedy eighteen years ago, to a collective victory over the evil forces of nemesis and from conflict and history as a nation united in the unflinching desire for peace and progress.
Eighteen years is a pretty short time in the life of a nation, especially one that has seen so much turmoil and so much suffering and experienced anguish, pain and devastation.
The aftermath of Rwanda’s tragedy, with incredible reverberations across the globe, is not yesterday’s history because Rwandans of all walks of life are still living the terrible consequences of the Genocide.
The brutal reality though is that this tragedy could have been averted by humanity, particularly the powerful nations of our shared planet earth. They chose not to for reasons that have been given over and over again. That Rwanda was not of a strategic and economic value to them.
As we remember 1994, we still have impoverished widows, widowers and orphans and other victims of hideous injuries, physical and psychological, who require not only material but also moral support.
While Rwanda has trained a critical mass of specialised skilled personnel in the medical field to bolster her medical infrastructure, there is need to look into the training of psychologists and psychiatrists, now desperately needed to take charge of the backlog of the unfortunate members of our society, who seem to be lost at sea.
Looking back again at the end of 1994, we cannot forget that more than US$1.2 billion was raised for the poor and the hungry and those threatened by violence.
But the survivors of the Genocide, those heroes and heroines who bore the brunt of the horrendous events of 1994, were largely left to fend for themselves.
Instead, two-thirds of that handsome amount of money was spent on assisting the refugees, including the killers, who continued to plan to kill, and some are still in the jungles of the DRC. Others in safe havens all over the Western world, including Australia, France, Canada and other parts of the developed world, having successfully changed their identities.
The prosperity of Rwanda ultimately depends on how the difficult choices made yesterday can be implemented for the general good of the country.
And the world has continued to fail the most vulnerable in our society – the survivors of the pogroms of eighteen years ago. Sure enough, words of sympathy are expressed time and again, photos of the survivors are taken, but no concrete action ever seems to follow the nice words.
The survivors of the unforgettable events of 1994 need to live in security and dignity and, above all, they need peace of mind. And as one survivor has remarked, “I want everyone to remember. What happened to us is too big to tell, too much for tears, so we keep quiet. If you think too much about it, you may stop loving life”.
And may we learn from our history as we build a better future for this and succeeding generations.
Contact email: oscar_kim2000[at]yahoo.co.uk