Africa must preserve the memory of its tragic past

IN RECENT days two different denominations have been used in international forums with regard to the tragedy that befell Rwanda in 1994; the ‘Rwanda Genocide’ and the ‘Genocide Against the Tutsi’ – for the same crime. This is because when the UN recognised what was happening in Rwanda in 1994, they called it the Rwanda Genocide.
Dr Joseph Nsengimana
Dr Joseph Nsengimana

IN RECENT days two different denominations have been used in international forums with regard to the tragedy that befell Rwanda in 1994; the ‘Rwanda Genocide’ and the ‘Genocide Against the Tutsi’ – for the same crime. This is because when the UN recognised what was happening in Rwanda in 1994, they called it the Rwanda Genocide. 

At the 10th anniversary, when the African Union and the UN designated April 7 as the day of Genocide commemoration, both institutions kept the same naming; Rwanda Genocide. 

However, Rwanda, confronted by misuse of the naming by negationists, clarified the denomination with the help of a conference of Genocide Scholars

Therefore, the right naming of what happened in Rwanda in 1994 – was made precise, not by geographical context but rather by social context. The ‘target group’ of the Genocide were the Tutsi, hence Rwanda constitutionally adopted and renamed the crime as the ‘Genocide Against the Tutsi’.

The United Nations used the above naming in UNSC Resolution 2136 (2014) of 30 Jan 2014. 

Our embassy will formerly request the AU Council to do the same, in a bid to avoid ambiguity. 

Kwibuka20 is a time to reflect on how far we have come as a country – from ashes to building a new Rwanda; a Rwanda that provides justice, unites and develops her people. 

It is also a time to remember the over one million of our people lost in the Genocide and to re-commit to “Never Again” – whether in Rwanda or elsewhere in the world. 

As Africa, it is a time to reflect together and resolve to fight Genocide and its ideology on the continent and elsewhere in the world and to shape a better continent free of conflicts. 

The launch of activities for the 20th Commemoration of the Genocide formally begun in Kigali on January 7 with the lighting of the “Flame of Remembrance” which is now traveling through the different districts of the country and will return to Kigali on April 7 for the official national commemoration. 

Since the Kigali launch in January, our diplomatic missions abroad and friends of Rwanda have been involved with similar activities intended to reflect, to remember and to commit to “Never Again”.

Remembering our past tragic history has been challenging but has also been a source of resilience and unity for Rwandans – and strength to confront our future with dignity.

As we reflect on the tragedy that befell our continent twenty years ago, we have chosen to focus on conflict prevention on the continent in order to avoid a return to what happened in Rwanda.

This week at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, the lighting and relay of the ‘Flame of Remembrance’ was conducted by couples of young people representing the five regions of our continent. 

The significance of the 20 year olds or less, carrying the ‘Flame of Remembrance’ is a reflection of post-Genocide Rwanda’s unity which is a product of traditional justice – a justice based on truthful confessions and forgiveness.

It also symbolises the resilience of Rwandans during these 20 years of rebuilding their country from the ashes of the Genocide. 

The other significance of this symbolic action by these young Africans is the reflection of a new generation that is free of past divisions and hatreds that have characterised past generations. 

This new generation, empowered with new values, will build new nations characterised by unity and shared prosperity all over the continent. 

We must strive to make sure that we write our own history as a continent, preserve the memory of our tragic past: of slavery, of genocide and crimes against humanity – by supporting the construction of the African Human Rights Memorial that is in the offing, to be constructed at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.

The article was extracted from the remarks by Rwanda’s envoy to the AU, Amb. Joseph Nsengimana, at the launch of Kwibuka20 in Addis Ababa, on February 21.

 

Have Your SayLeave a comment