The Prime Minister of Belgium, Charles Michel, announced Monday that his government had taken steps toward enacting a law that would make it illegal to deny the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
He made the disclosure during a commemoration event in Kigali in honour of the 10 Belgian troops who were killed by Hutu extremists on April 7, 1994, as the genocidal machine was set in motion.
Belgium, a former colonial power in Rwanda, sowed the initial seeds of division and hate among Rwandans that led to decades of exclusion, persecution, expulsions and killings against Tutsi, eventually culminating into the 1994 Genocide that claimed the lives of over a million people.
Indeed, it is the Belgian colonialists that introduced fake ethnicities in Rwanda and subsequently introduced ethnic designation on national cards, a key factor that facilitated the killers to easily identify their targets for slaughter twenty-five years ago.
Nonetheless, Belgium was one of the first countries to assume its responsibility in the aftermath of the Genocide, and while it has largely continued to show indifference toward denial and revisionism of the slaughter by individuals on its territory, it is encouraging that finally Brussels is choosing to do the right thing.
Genocide against the Tutsi is recognised by the United Nations and it is only natural that all member states proceed to outlaw denial of the same – in the same way denial of other genocides, like the Holocaust, attracts criminal liability.
It was painful for survivors and Rwandans, in general, for Belgium to look the other way as Genocide deniers and revisionists on its territory continued to distort the history of Genocide and mock the memory of its victims for the last quarter-century, but it’s never too late to atone for past wrongs – most importantly, to stand up for truth and humanity.
Denying genocide has nothing to do with right to freedom of opinion. Genocide denial is not only dangerous to the world and demeaning to survivors, its part and parcel of a genocide agenda and must be confronted in the same manner as any attempt to commit genocide.
We applaud the Belgian government on this important step and hope that the process will be completed as soon as possible. We call on other countries around the world to do the same.
It is not only the right thing to do, it is a necessity.