The Executive Secretary of the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) Jean Damascène Bizimana, has said that there is overwhelming evidence to indicate that the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was planned years before and narratives aimed at changing this fact will never prevail. Bizimana said this during an event to officially kick off the 27th commemoration of the genocide. The seven-day official national mourning period ends on April 13 although remembering victims stretches up to July, spanning the 100 days of the massacre. Bizimana, a legal expert and researcher, said that remembering is important because it aids rebuilding. “We must remember the history of the atrocities committed against the Tutsi because that will help us to fight those who undermine it,” he said. He reminded that the MRND and Parmehutu political manifestos, which successive previous regimes worked hard to propagate within local communities, was solely based on ethnic divisionism. “In its planning, (Gregoire) Kayibanda’s Parmehutu never had Rwandans in mind. MRND that replaced it in 1973 continued the legacy. The ideology of these parties are the deepest roots of the genocide against the Tutsi,” he said. He gave a chronology of events, some which he said point directly to the genocide ideology stretching as far back as the 70s. He reminded those in attendance that on May 1, 1998, Jean Kambada who led the government that executed the genocide told the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) that his government put into action the plan to kill Tutsis that was planned before the downing of the plane that was carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana. “He said that as the Prime Minister, he chaired meetings that gave specific instructions to members of the cabinet, the army and senior government officials to execute the genocide and do follow-ups on how it was being done,” he said. Kambada confirmed that he sent ministers all over the country to mobilise locals to hunt down the Tutsi. Bizimana pointed out another example where two weeks into the Genocide, the President at the time, Theodore Sindikubwabo and Kambanda went to the southern regions of then Butare and Gikongoro prefectures to mobilise residents to participate in the killings since many of the people in those areas were hesitant. At the time, the residents in this area, especially in Butare, were reluctant to kill. Another example was delivered in a speech by President Sindikubwabo on April 18, 1994 in Commune Nyakizu and where he used his speech to call on the residents to “work the way they did in 1959” promising to send them a prize for their efforts. “For a President to call on people to kill others, promising them a prizes for that, is more evidence of the involvement of the government in the planning and execution of the genocide,” he said. He warned those that continue to insist that the genocide was not prepared, trying to find other names to call it to water down its seriousness, and reminded them that they are ‘deceiving themselves and lies don’t last’. The reluctance to participate in the massacre, Bizimana said was the work of the Prefet of Butare Prefecture at the time, Jean Baptiste Habyarimana, who openly opposed the killing of Tutsis. He was later replaced on the orders of Sindikubwabo and replaced by a more virulent Prefet who immediately set the killing machine rolling. Habyarimana was soon after killed with his entire family. Among the people who were put in charge of supervising the killings in Butare was the then Minister of Women and Family Affairs, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, who was sentenced to life imprisonment by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. She remains the only woman to be tried and convicted for genocide crimes by an international court. Call on youth Meanwhile, Bizimana pointed out that those who demean and deny the genocide deliberately distort the history which characterised it, because of their own involvement or that of their parents. “Young people born in a well-governed country are saddened by this history. They do not understand how the previous governments asked people to kill others with whom they shared their motherland,” he said. However, he said that Rwandan youth are today involved in the fight against the Genocide ideology in all its manifestations, and they are participating in a better struggle to support the good governance in Rwanda. “This gives us all hope for a better future,” he said. Great opportunity Earlier in the day, the Executive Secretary of Ibuka, the umbrella body for genocide survivors’ organisations, Naphatal Ahishakiye, told The New Times in a telephone interview that though it may be hard to adapt to the new routine, it is also an opportunity for family units to sit and openly discuss what happened. “Obviously it is tough, but it can also be seen as an opportunity. A man, woman and their children should see this as an opportunity to have frank conversations about how we got here and what to do so that such atrocities never happen again,” he said. Addressing the survivors directly, Ahishakiye said that although they may find it challenging to deviate from the norm of how they usually commemorate their loved ones, it was important that they put their health first in everything.