LONDON - The Rwandan High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, Ernest Rwamucyo, has said that his country refused to be written off as a failed state after being devastated by the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
He was addressing a Genocide commemoration service at Southwark Cathedral in London on Wednesday April 7, at the start of commemoration events around the United Kingdom.
16 years after the most brutal and horrific Genocide in modern history, Rwamucyo said, there is total economic and social transformation underway in Rwanda, and the country symbolises the dawn of a bright future on the African continent.
The visibly saddened audience of over 500 people consisting of diplomats, members of UK’s House of Lords and House of Commons, members of Rwandan Diaspora Community and friends of Rwanda, listened attentively as Rwanda’s top diplomat in London painted a picture of a country that has defied all odds to emerge as a beacon of hope in an otherwise hopeless part of the world.
Rwamucyo gave the audience a graphic description of what happened to his country during 100 dark days 16 years ago; the indiscriminate killing of babies, the young, elderly and the weak; killed because they were born Tutsi – something they had no decision over at the time of their birth.
He added that the people and the government of Rwanda are determined to build a better society full of hope and opportunity for all. He said Rwanda is now an active member of both regional and international communities, following admission into the East African Community and the Commonwealth.
The High Commissioner condemned the international community “including the most powerful countries on the face of the earth” for abandoning Rwandans at their greatest hour of need, and saluted the men and women of Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) who single-handedly brought the killings to an end and established order in the country”.
He called upon all nations to arrest and try Genocide perpetrators who are still freely roaming the world, especially in Europe and North America, or send them to Rwanda for trial.
Rwamucyo used the opportunity to commend the government of the United Kingdom for amending the Coroner’s and justice Act which came into effect on April 6 and has retrospective effect, allowing for the trial of Genocide fugitives in the UK, if they are not extradited to Rwanda.
The commemoration service was conducted by The Very Reverend Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark Cathedral, assisted by The Reverend Malachie Munyaneza and Bishop Jonathan Ruhumuriza.
In his sermon, Slee congratulated Rwanda on its admission to the Commonwealth late last year, revealing that a Genocide monument is to be erected at Southwark Square, to remember the victims and to ‘cement the relationship between this church and Rwandan people’.
The service was also addressed by renowned Rwanda Genocide researcher and author Linda Melvern, who narrated how on the 7th of April 1994, the elite para-commando unit of the former Rwandan army was assigned certain areas in Kigali with orders to kill everyone who carried a Tutsi identity card.
She described the “total destruction of humans and infrastructure” throughout the country, giving numbers and locations of where Tutsi victims were killed.
After the commemoration service, the UK Rwanda Genocide Memorial Project was launched by its Chairperson the Rt. Hon. Baroness Linda Chalker of Wallasey and Reverend Colin Slee.
The project has among its patrons, Baroness Chalker, Archbishop Desmond Tutu President Paul Kagame, Dr Chai Patel of Bright Future Trust, Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba, Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth and many other prominent personalities.
The Genocide Commemoration events continue around the UK with services planned in Birmingham, Newcastle, Reading and Manchester.