Kwibuka25: Rwanda urges international community to stand up for truth, justice

Yolande Mukagasana, an author, historian and researcher of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi (cetre), speaks on a panel during a session of reflection for members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Rwanda at Kigali Marriott Hotel yesterday. Looking on are Belgian Ambassador Benoît Ryelandt (left) and Kenyan envoy John Mwangemi. Nadege Imbabazi.

As Rwanda marks the 25th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, members of the international community have been reminded of their role in various aspects, including delivery of justice, combating genocide denial and ideology as well as sharing archives related to the Genocide.

At a session of reflection for members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Rwanda, the envoys were challenged to play a role in ensuring that such tragedies never happen again elsewhere in the world.

Among the ways that various countries can play going forward is fighting genocide denial, and revisionism, and ensuring that those responsible for these atrocities are brought to account.

Foreign Affairs minister Dr Richard Sezibera said that, among the ways that denial and revision of the Genocide against the Tutsi was manifesting, include deliberate distortion of its terminology.

There has also been manipulation of facts, such as the number of victims, to mislead the world on the events that took place in Rwanda 25 years ago.

The United Nations has since adopted a correction on the name “Genocide against Tutsis” while the official number of victims has been established to be over 1 million.

However, revisionists tend to use lower figures which Sezibera said points to minimising of the Genocide against the Tutsi and this hurts the victims.

He called on various countries to support the fight against denial, revisionism and manipulation of facts which is at times done by Rwandans living in those countries.

Among the ways countries can support this is by making it a criminal offense to deny the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

On Monday this week, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel said the Belgian parliament will before the end of this month pass a legislation that will criminalise denying the Genocide against the Tutsi.

Meanwhile, Sezibera called upon countries – mainly those with historical ties to Rwanda – to open up and possibly hand back to Rwanda archives related to the Genocide to create better understanding of the slaughter and help preserve its memory.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Richard Sezibera addresses members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Rwanda during a session of reflection at Kigali Marriott Hotel yesterday. Nadege Imbabazi.

“We have sought the support of some of your countries to open your archives related to the Genocide with the goal of owning our history and preserving the memory, which are two important components of our healing, unity and reconciliation. 

“We are thankful for the countries who have already responded positively to share these archive documents with us, and encourage others to do so as well,” he said.

Other ways in which governments across the world can play a role going forward is by prosecuting or extraditing those accused of genocide crimes.

Though a number of countries have done so, many fugitives continue to roam free especially in European nations despite indictments and calls for justice.

In this aspect, the Minister of State for East African Community, Olivier Nduhungirehe said that the pace of international justice has been slow with hundreds of indicted perpetrators yet to be apprehended.

Kenyan Ambassador to Rwanda John Mwangemi said that the fight against genocide ideology is paramount.

“If genocide perpetrators are not held to account – that is an infringement on the survivors’ freedom and rights. Let the freedoms we always talk about also stand on the side of the victims,” he said.

The Belgian ambassador to Rwanda, Benoît Ryelandt, said that it is by owning up to the international community’s mistakes and faults during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi that countries can play a meaningful role.

“We have a role to make sure that genocide never happens again anywhere else and aspects such as minimisation and denial have no place in our country,” he said.

He noted that the legislation criminalizing denial of the Genocide against the Tutsi could be in place by June this year.

Rwandan author Yolande Mukagasana also called on the diplomats to make a case in their respective countries to criminalise the denial of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

She also asked that the archives of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and those in the custody of other countries concerning the Genocide, be repatriated to Rwanda for memory preservation.