Kwibuka25: US Senate honours Genocide victims

This event was co-hosted by the U.S. Senate Human Rights Caucus, the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the Embassy of Rwanda in the U.S.
Minister Busingye (L) with US Senator Chris Coons and Rwandan ambassador to US Mathilde Mukantabana during the commemoration event. / Courtesy

An event to mark the 25th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi was held Wednesday at the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the second office building constructed for members of the US Senate in Washington, D.C.

This event was co-hosted by the U.S. Senate Human Rights Caucus, the U.S. Holocaust Museum and the Embassy of Rwanda in the U.S.

Senators James Inhofe and Chris Coons, representatives from the United States Holocaust Museum, and members of the diplomatic corps attended the commemorative event which was also attended by Justice Minister and Attorney General, Johnston Busingye.

Senator Coons‏ noted that: “Today in the Senate, we celebrated Rwanda’s recovery, but also discussed how we preserve the memory of the genocide and learn from it, as we continue to see atrocities perpetrated against innocent civilians around the world.”

Just 25 years after coordinated and vicious killings, Coons‏ said, Rwanda has transformed into a country that is leading the way on economic development and the participation of women in politics.

Senators Inhofe said: “If you want to find out what all of Africa could look like, you would be wise to go see what Rwandans, under the leadership of President Paul Kagame have done in the country.”

Four weeks ago, Rwanda marked 25 years since the Genocide against the Tutsi. 

More than a million people were killed during the Genocide which lasted 100 days.

Minister Busingye noted that the Genocide came from an ideology, a set of beliefs, state supported and directed, that manipulated socio-economic into ethnic differences and then inculcated hatred, division, fear, rejection of others, and extreme violence that sought to pit one part of the population against the other.

Busingye delivering his speech at the commemoration of the Genocide against  the Tutsi organised by the US Senate Caucus for Human Rights.

Busingye said: “It is this thinking, and this preparation and this state support that provided the conditions in which a million people could be killed in a hundred days across a whole country.”

The Genocide against the Tutsi, he said, impacted the life of the country, destroyed institutions, shattered unity and the already ailing social fabric.

He shed light on how, in response, “the new inclusive government realised that only restorative justice would push back against impunity,” be a way for reintegrating convicts and the opportunity to contribute to unity and reconciliation.

Conservative estimates put the time required by conventional courts to discharge the genocide justice burden at 100 years, he said.

That is how Gacaca, a semi-traditional judicial mechanism was introduced, basically to try get solution for the above.

“Bringing to justice all genocide suspects from the instigators to the implementers, through the Gacaca process was the best practical lesson in the respect of the human rights of Rwandans irrespective of social class,” said Busingye.

It also meant that whoever had committed any act that violated human rights during the genocide had to be held accountable for it, no matter who they were, he added.

“It was a tall order, but necessary, if we wanted Rwanda to be a united and decent country. This is the long and hard journey of justice we have traveled for 25 years.”

“I can confirm with pride that the unity and social cohesion we enjoy today, though far from perfect and with more work to do, is without precedent since independence. And it is the bedrock on which we are building our socio-economic transformation.”

He shed light on the “puzzle of numbers and speedy justice” considering how genocide architects planned for and succeeded in securing mass participation in the killings.

“The point was that in the unlikely event that they would ever be held to account, the sheer mass of suspects would be an insurmountable challenge, which indeed it would have been, had we not taken the Gacaca route.”

Busingye said that the success registered by Gacaca courts in their 10 years of existence demonstrated, in action, the will and ability of Rwandans to overcome the challenges of their country and work for progress.

“The Gacaca philosophy is tailored on enabling communities to resolve tough challenges or disputes, but reconcile and keep community unity intact. Gacaca contributed immensely to reconciliation.”

One major issue which, until now, Busingye said, is subject of intense debate and wonder about post genocide Rwanda is how forgiveness could even begin to factor in this equation.

Many people still come to Rwanda to try understanding how it is humanly possible, he admitted.

“The Gacaca process provided the courage survivors needed to forgive those who committed genocide and inhuman crimes against them,” he said.

Through the process survivors, he said, were able to break with the legacy of hatred and to move forward on the path of reconciliation, and forgive those who asked for forgiveness.