President Paul Kagame delivered his speech while accepting the Abolitionist of the year 2007 award by ‘hands off Cain’ in Rome, Italy yesterday. In attendance was, Romano Prodi, President of the Italian Government, Franco Marini, President of the Italian Senate and Marco Pannella, Member of the European Parliament and President of Hands Off Cain.
Below is the speech. I am delighted to be here today and honoured to accept the Abolitionist of the Year Award, on behalf of all Rwandans for their rejection of the death penalty in our country. I thank Hands Off Cain for this recognition.
Before 1994, life itself had lost meaning in Rwanda, due to the prevailing culture of impunity as exemplified by the periodic massacres that occurred since the late 1950s, and the genocide that saw over one million Rwandans perish thirteen years ago.
The governments that presided over these ugly episodes had neither the moral authority nor the capability to perform the functions of a normal state – that is, protecting and improving lives.
Our liberation struggle aimed at creating an atmosphere and space for Rwandans to engage in their daily lives and determine their own future as free people. This has meant working consistently to build a nation and an economy that is broad-based and productive, as a means of uplifting our people from poverty and ignorance.
Such an enterprise can only be achieved on a foundation of security, stability, justice, and national reconciliation. It is this environment that is greatly enhanced by the abolition of the death penalty.
When we began the debate on capital punishment, it was heavily influenced by the history of genocide. Through national dialogue and consultation however, our people realised that they had been historically peace-loving and united, and at no time had they, on their own accord, sought to take the lives of their neighbours. Rwandan history therefore taught us that it was possible to overcome hatred.
The modest socioeconomic and political milestones we have achieved in the past thirteen years reassure us that our country is on the right path.
I should point out that the positive change in our country is reflective of progressive developments in Africa.
Our continent has over the past decade increasingly rid itself of bad governments, and steadily adopted a developmental agenda that seeks to create greater public good.
Our international partners have also in recent years shifted towards a more consultative approach that calls for partnership with Africa. I thank the government and people of Italy for their role in this emerging perspective. We in Rwanda wish to utilise this environment to forge stronger bilateral relations with Italy.
We are pleased that Rwanda has joined the family of nations and peoples that reject the death penalty.
With regard to the ongoing campaign for a universal moratorium on capital executions, Rwanda will be happy to work together with other African countries, and to join the European Union in co-sponsoring the resolution at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly, in support of this important initiative. The leadership by Italy in this matter is greatly appreciated.
If I may comment on the role of the international community in contributing to justice in Rwanda, as you might be aware, there are still many untried Rwandan genocide suspects in different parts of the world.
It would be helpful if more commitment was shown internationally for resolving this issue through the available channels and means, including handing over the genocide suspects to the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, trying them where they are, or better still returning them to their country for justice.
Once again I express my very sincere gratitude to Hands Off Cain for the Abolitionist Award, for the excellent work that you are doing to end the death penalty globally, and your invitation to speak at this ceremony. I thank you very much for your kind attention.