Kwibuka25: Belgian peacekeepers honoured

Officials observe a moment of silence during a commemoration event in honour of ten Belgian peacekeepers killed on April 7, 1994 at former Camp Kigali yesterday. Sam Ngendahimana.

A Belgian delegation and Rwandan officials paid tribute to Belgian peacekeepers who were killed at the onset of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi at a former military camp – Camp Kigali.

The ten Belgian ‘casques bleus’, killed on April 7, 1994, were part of the second battalion of Flawinne of the Belgian Army.

They came to Rwanda in 1993 as part of Mission des Nations Unies Pour l’Assistance au Rwanda (MINUAR).

Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente shares his remarks during the commemoration event to honour the 10 Belgian peacekeepers who were killed in Kigali on April 7, 1994

They were killed as they attempted to protect former Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, who was murdered by the Presidential Guard alongside his husband on the same day.

One of the victims, Lt Thierry Lotin, who was 28 at the time was a very engaged soldier and when he was sent to Rwanda for peacekeeping mission, he knew the task was not very easy, according to his elder sister, Carine Lotin.

His wife was pregnant with their first child, who was born one month and half after his death, she says.

Every year, at the beginning of the Genocide commemoration, Lotin and other relatives of the victims travel to Rwanda to pay tribute to their loved ones.

“We have eternal sadness but, just like you Rwandans, we have to move forward. The main message from this is that we have to work together as humans to prevent it from happening again,” she says.

She added; “His wife and son have forgiven too, they even came here many times to see some of the perpetrators and they had a discussion about the atrocities, not only for the Casques Bleus, but also for the Rwandans and the entire nation,”

Charles Michel, the Prime Minister of Belgium, said victims have to be the light into people’s hearts and souls to clarify the future.

“May their souls and memories live forever into every one of us, to make the future of humanity more precious and more delightful. In the name of the Belgian people, I bow before the great memories of the ten soldiers of the second battalion of Flawinne as well as to the Genocide victims, may their souls rest in peace,” he said.

Michel said the fight against impunity must be given priority.

Since 1995, Belgian judiciary prosecuted and sentenced Genocide perpetrators on its territory and they are determined to bring Genocide suspects, who are still at large, to justice, he said.

Edouard Ngirente, Rwanda’s Prime Minister, said after 25 years Rwanda chose a different path, one that is characterised by improving people’s welfare and that Belgium has been supportive.

“The memorial remains an important homage for the Belgian soldiers killed in Kigali, but the most important thing we can offer to them is the strong relationship between Belgian and Rwandan people and our two countries,” he added.

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