Something significant happened last week in Kigali – New Zealand handed over to the Rwandan government files related to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The timing was of particularly momentous as Rwandans are observing, for the 25th time, the Genocide against the Tutsi which claimed over a million lives.
The handover is significant because the documents add to huge volumes of archives and other evidence that prove beyond reasonable doubt – if there was any – that what happened in Rwanda was a meticulously planned genocide that was systematically implemented across the length and breadth of Rwanda, with the Tutsi the targeted group.
For starters, New Zealand was one of the countries that tried to get the international community to intervene to stop the slaughter in Rwanda but the pleas of its permanent representative to the United Nations fell on deaf ears in the Security Council whose most influential members did not want to acknowledge that a genocide was taking place because they would be legally liable for not preventing/stopping it.
Rather than heed Amb. Colin Keating’s call, the Security Council instead significantly scaled down its peacekeeping mission in Kigali, withdrawing troops even in situations where marauding militia, armed with machetes, clubs and other traditional weapons, and guns, had encircled helpless refugees ready to pounce at the earliest opportunity.
While the harm has already been done and what happened cannot be reversed, 25 years later, the least that the UN and its member countries can do is to hand over all the archives related to the Genocide in their possession and help apprehend and bring to book fugitives out there that continue to take advantage of the indifference of their host countries to propagate Genocide denial and ideology.
It is a well-known fact that several countries, including France and United States, have in custody large volumes of classified documents with important details about the Genocide against the Tutsi. They should not only declassify these archives but also hand them over to Rwanda because they contain the history of Rwanda and would help the country on its continued journey of healing and reconciliation.
Similarly, New Zealand’s gesture should serve as an example to the United Nations, which continues to hold onto crucial Genocide archives in a custody of its court – International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals – and hand them over to Kigali because this is part of our heritage and history, and is key to forging the country’s future.