Why we Remember, Unite and Renew, 20 years after the Genocide

After the Jewish Holocaust, the world committed that “never again” would such brutal tragedy happen anymore to human beings. The whole world has failed that pledge.
Jean Pierre Karabaranga
Jean Pierre Karabaranga

After the Jewish Holocaust, the world committed that “never again” would such brutal tragedy happen anymore to human beings. The whole world has failed that pledge.

Twenty years ago, Rwanda went through the worst horror of modern human history. While the world looked on, over one million innocent, unarmed, ordinary children, women, men, disabled, young and old Rwandan Tutsi were massacred in the most inhumane ways.

Albert Einstein once said: “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything”.

The Genocide against the Tutsi which started on April 7, 1994 was the fastest killings known in the history of mankind. In just 100 days, over one million people were killed using mostly traditional weapons such as machetes.

The victims were desperately asking their executioners (unfortunately without succeeding to convince them) to use their guns and ammunitions to end their lives and their loved ones.

They were not considered human beings anymore…the value of their lives was less than ones of beasts in the jungle. They were born to be killed and this was done without mercy.

With the Genocide against the Tutsi, the entire fabric of the Rwandan society was destroyed. Its negative impact and devastation on the Rwandan people and the people in the region is still there.

The “crime” of those killed was only because they had been born Tutsi, a matter on which they had no choice or say. Nobody should be held accountable based on which tribe, ethnic group, region, color, race or religion they were born into.

This year, Rwanda will remember for the twentieth year the over one million of its citizens killed during the Genocide. This Kwibuka20 is very significant. In this remembrance, we will reflect and search what went wrong in our society that led to the Genocide. What were the consequences and how can we build a shared, prosperous and stable future for all Rwandans today and for future generations?

The theme for this year’s Genocide commemoration is: Remember, Unite, Renew. It was carefully selected to reflect the future that Rwandans want to build. Let me explain what we intend by those three words.

Remember: Remembrance is about honouring the memory of those who perished and offering comfort to survivors. I call on the global community to reflect on the suffering, trauma and hardship the survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi have endured and continue to face.

The sorrow, pain and despair are still fresh for the survivors.

Remembering, without bitterness or the spirit of revenge, pity, or hopelessness, but with dignity, resilience and a determination to move on, is the only way to ensure that such a tragedy never happens again.

Unite: Rwanda is determined to overcome the history of bad governance, discrimination, culture of impunity and hatred which laid the foundation for the Genocide and divided our society into parts.

We have chosen to focus on things that unite Rwandans, which far outweigh any differences. Rwandans share one language, one culture, same values and norms with a long history of peaceful and harmonious co-existence. These are powerful assets that we want to nurture in reclaiming our true Rwandan identity.

The Rwandan leadership is today promoting a culture of tolerance, values of self-worth (agaciro), rebuilding the shared Rwandan identity (Ndi Umunyarwanda), and establishing the rule of law and a society which treats everyone equally.

Rwandans have been awakened to the reality that we have a shared responsibility to build a new modern stable nation of shared opportunity and prosperity. Strong pillars and foundation for national unity and reconciliation have been firmly built.

Renew: From it, we should take the courage and resolve to rebuild our lives and our country. Revive the Rwandan values of resilience, self-worth, respect and dignity and focus on pursuing a vision of transformation that will ensure that genocide never happens again. From the catastrophe, we should build an entirely new and modern nation.

After the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda as a country had all the ingredients of a failed state. From almost a non-existent state in 1994, Rwanda has become a nation of hope, prosperity and equal opportunity for its people.

Rwanda is today a stable country. The economy has grown at over 8 per cent per year over the last decade. The infrastructure has been rebuilt and further expanded across the country. Our people have gained the necessary capacity in key sectors. There is universal access to education; health and basic social protection are available to each citizen. Rwanda is one of the countries on track to achieve almost all the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadlines.

Let us give ourselves a homework consisting in denouncing Genocide perpetrators, Genocide denial, racism, hatred, anti-Semitism, intolerance and any form of discrimination. Because if we do not speak out now, who would then do it?

This article was extracted from the remarks by Amb. Jean Pierre Karabaranga, Rwanda’s envoy to The Netherlands, at the launch of Kwibuka20 in The Hague on February 14.

 

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