New Zealand Prime Minister JacindaArdern on Saturday called on leaders the world over to remember as well as commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi if humanity is to prevent repetition of such cruelty anywhere.
Ardern said this as members of the Rwandan community in her country, and friends of Rwanda, held an event to commemorate the 1994 Genocide in the capital, Wellington.
Ardern said she was 13 years old when the Genocide occurred in Rwanda and it was the first moment in her life she recalls seeing a mass murder of such a scale and that it really stayed with her.
“That is the primary reason I am here; because I remember. The second reason I am here is because I want everyone else to pick it. It doesn’t matter what corner of the world genocide occurs, we must always remember, because these are history lessons of the past that we must hold with us in the future,” Ardern said.
“As leaders on the world stage, we must always remember and keep in mind that this can happen anywhere. The third reason I am here is because of that last point. We all have a duty of care. And I think New Zealand’s connection to what happened 25 years ago demonstrates that duty of care which falls upon all of us.”
Even if a country is a small nation in the southwestern Pacific Ocean with less than five million inhabitants, “you still have a responsibility.”
New Zealand’s Prime Minister said that in the years after the Genocide she read a number of accounts of those who survived, of those who bore witness, and of those who helped others to survive, and “the testimonies – acts of bravery and kindness – were always extraordinary to me.”
“Some of the other things that stood out to me were how quickly humans and neighbors and friends can turn on one another under certain circumstances. And I found that a chilling piece of knowledge to learn.”
And that was not just about one corner of the world, she said.
“It was about humankind and what humans can be capable of.”
In 2016, three Genocide fugitives, including Eugene Uwimana, a former lecturer at the National University of Rwanda (now the University of Rwanda), whose indictment was sent in 2004, and EnockRuhigira, whose indictment was sent in 2007, were believed to be hiding in New Zealand.
At the time, The Dominion Post, a Wellington-based newspaper, reported that one of them was trying to secure confidentiality for witnesses in his defence.
Later, on July 20, 2016, authorities in Germany arrested Ruhigira as he landed at Frankfurt airport. Kigali followed up and sent an indictment to Germany.