To mark the 26th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwandan diaspora and friends of Rwanda in the United Kingdom organized a virtual event on April 7th.
The event was joined by members of the diplomatic corps and government officials from the safety of their homes.
Traditionally, each year, hundreds of guests would come together at St Marylebone Parish Church in the heart of London to mark the significant occasion in respect of the over one million victims of the Genocide, and to stand in solidarity with the survivors, which was not possible this time due to the measures in place in light of the coronavirus pandemic that has ravaged the world.
UK has so far recorded over 78,000 COVID-19 cases and over 9,000 lives were lost.
The High Commissioner in London, Yamina Karitanyi, who led the event, called for all to “work even harder to remain on the good side of history by doing our part collectively and individually” in order to ensure “perpetrators face prosecution and remain haunted by the cruelty of the heinous acts they committed.”
Unlike many other countries especially in Europe, Rwanda is yet to see a Genocide fugitive either extradited from the United Kingdom or tried there for crimes of Genocide despite several indictments sent there for fugitives some of them have lived there for over two decades.
For at least 12 years now, Rwanda has been urging the UK to extradite or try five men who played a significant role in the Genocide but with little success.
The suspects are Dr Vincent Bajinya, Célestin Ugirashebuja, Charles Munyaneza, Emmanuel Nteziryayo and Célestin Mutabaruka, all of them former senior officials in the government that executed the Genocide.
Karitanyi's message to fight against genocide denial and push for justice was echoed by renowned British investigative journalist and author Linda Melvern, who cautioned that denial involves “a campaign to rewrite history”, calling for denial to be “challenged wherever it occurs.”
Melvern has extensively investigated and written about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Among her books are “Intent to Deceive: Denying the Genocide of the Tutsi”, “A people betrayed” and “Conspiracy to Murder”.
During the event, participants lit candles for the Flame of Remembrance and took a minute of silence to honor victims. The minute of silence was followed by the launch of a video campaign, which saw survivors, community members and friends of Rwanda provide their messages for Kwibuka26.
Friends of Rwanda and survivors share their sympathies
Among the participants who condoled with Rwanda was the Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland who commended the “fortitude and dignity” with which Rwanda has come together as a nation “in a spirit of reconciliation to rebuild.”
First-team players from Arsenal FC, via a video, shared their messages to participants.
David Luiz who visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial with his family last year as part of the club’s partnership with Visit Rwanda, spoke on behalf of the North London football club, expressing that “we are one family.’’
Chantal Uwamahoro, Deputy Chair of survivor’s association URUMURI UK, said that she feels her survival comes with a “duty and responsibility…to honour and be the voice.”
Speaking about the role of the media during the Genocide against the Tutsi, Alice Musabende, survivor and Cambridge University Gates Scholar, compellingly challenged international media “In this era of fake news…and disinformation, it is time curbing genocide revisionism and denial was made part and parcel of the promise of ‘Never again’”.
Rwandan diaspora in UK joins other many Rwandan communities around the world in virtual commemoration activities.
Linda Melvern's message for the 26th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi
Conservative Member of Parliament and founder of Project Umubano, Andrew Mitchell's message
Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland's message
The first-team players from Arsenal FC; David Luiz, Reiss Nelson, Pablo Mari and Alexandre Lacazette deliver their Kwibuka 26 messageFollow Ange_Iliza