Kagame urges UN to champion struggle against genocide denial

President Kagame with the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (2nd left, background); María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the current President of the UN General Assembly for the 73rd session (2nd right, background) and other leaders observe a minute of silence in honour of the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi at the United Nations headquarters in New York yesterday. Village Urugwiro.

President Paul Kagame has called for improved global efforts against Genocide denial saying that it is an ideological foundation of genocide.

Kagame was speaking at United Nations Headquarters during the annual commemoration of the international day of reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

“When genocide is dormant, it takes the form of denial and trivialisation. Denial is an ideological foundation of genocide. Countering denial is essential for breaking the cycle and preventing any recurrence,” he said.

“In that spirit, the General Assembly voted overwhelmingly last year to adopt the proper terminology: Genocide against the Tutsi. I thank the Member States most sincerely for this measure. 

“Such a clarification should not have been necessary, given the irrefutable proof and historical facts of what happened in Rwanda,” he added.

The Head of State called for the continued fight against the growing trivialisation and denial of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

“The efforts to rewrite history are relentless and increasingly mainstream. The victims of genocide are targeted because of who they are, a distinction fundamental to the definition of genocide itself, both morally and legally. This does not in any way diminish the memory of others who died.”

“Remembrance also serves to help spur change for the better. There are encouraging signs that lessons are slowly being learned and institutionalised. It helps that we have something to build on,” Kagame added.

He commended countries that have put measures in place to criminalise denial and called on others to consider adopting such measures.  

“France, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, and Switzerland have criminalised denial of the Genocide against the Tutsi, and Belgium has announced its intention to do so. Canada and France have designated April 7th as a day of commemoration,” the President said.

On behalf of Rwanda, he paid tribute to the United Nations Security Council members who consistently called for action during the Genocide.

“In 1994, three representatives on the United Nations Security Council consistently called for action, despite the resistance of more powerful states. They were Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria, Colin Keating of New Zealand, and Karel Kovanda of the Czech Republic,” Kagame noted.

Going forward, Kagame pointed to actions that the UN and member countries can take to ensure such atrocities never happen anywhere in the world again, including the prioritisation of civilian protection in peacekeeping doctrines.  

This is among the key components of the Kigali Principles on the Protection of Civilians.

“In the absence of a protection-of-civilians mandate, there are limits to what good commanders can achieve,” he said.

It is because of this background that Rwanda has been among the top troop contributors to peacekeeping operations, he said, adding that the country intends to maintain its commitment.

“Rwanda does not only contribute soldiers and police. We come to the task with the values instilled by our tragic history. As a nation once betrayed by the international community, we are determined to do our part, working with others, to make things better going forward,” he said.

The session was attended by envoys to the UN from across the world, the President of the General Assembly María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, and UN Secretary-General António Guterres.

The two UN leaders said that it is important that the world learns lessons from the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to ensure that such atrocities never happen again anywhere in the world.