The challenges Rwandans have had to contend with over the past 21 years have helped strengthen their resolve to stand up for their rights and recommit to a better future despite the efforts of those who deny the Genocide and would rather see Rwanda fail, President Paul Kagame said yesterday.
The Head of State made the remarks shortly after lighting a flame of hope at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre where he and the First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, were joined by Rwandans and friends of Rwanda to launch the official commemoration week.
VIDEO: President address at Kwibuka 21 - 7 April 2015. Source: Paul Kagame/YouTube
“We are a small country in the middle of nowhere but we are a country of people who have pride in themselves. People who are ready for peace and for war for our rights,” Kagame said in reference to elements that continue to deny or minimize Genocide, and seek to threaten the country’s gains by espousing the same ideology that led to the Genocide.
“During the Genocide, people were targeted, hunted down and killed as if they were animals.
They were hunted down and killed by those who were supposed to be their brothers and sisters.
They were hunted down and killed by those with whom they were supposed to share equal rights,” the President said.
What is more deplorable though, the Head of State said, is that those who claim to preach democracy are the very people who 21 years later continue to protect and shelter those responsible for the Genocide.
Kagame said while the primary responsibility of the Genocide lies with Rwandans, there was also the hand of foreigners who backed the killings and continue to support the perpetrators to this day.
He said those who continue to deny or minimise the Genocide will and must not stop Rwandans from soldiering on by building an inclusive and dignified nation.
“To those who teach us freedom, democracy and human rights while protecting those who killed one million of our people, we say to you: Rwanda has changed for good and forever. We will stand up for our right to live,” the President said.
Kagame added that the actions of those who deny the Genocide and protect Génocidaires will not deter Rwandans from remembering and honouring those who lost their lives in the slaughter as well as protecting and supporting those who survived it, Kagame added.
“We cannot give up or let anything stand in our way. To do so would be to dishonour the lives we honour here today,” he said.
VIDEO: Watch how President Kagame and First Lady lit a "Flame of Hope" 2015. Source: The New Times/YouTube
Hypocrisy on FDLR question
President Kagame pointed to the hypocrisy evident in the continuous support of DR Congo-based FDLR, the militia made up of remnants of those who committed the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
“Some even continue to accord VIP status to Genocide suspects, supporting them in their plans against Rwanda and seeking political legitimacy for them. This means that people we are remembering today, the hundred of thousands buried here, the cause of their death could be having legitimate political reasons.”
Remains of nearly 260,000 victims of the Genocide are buried at the memorial centre.
The President added that it was ironical that the world rose up against Rwanda in 2012 over the M23 war in eastern DR Congo, just because the rebels largely came from communities with roots in Rwanda, while at the same time the world continues to stand by as many attempt to give political legitimacy to the FDLR.
“The M23 war was being fought by people who are Congolese nationals. What they were fighting for should have been addressed on the DR Congo side; we did not cause that war, not at all.
“But the whole world blamed us for that. The world moved to fight M23. They resolved to tackle a problem that had lasted about three years (M23) and yet they continue to ignore a bigger problem that has existed for 21 years (FDLR),” Kagame said.
He added that despite the challenges Rwanda may have faced, the people of Rwanda remain standing and will continue to build on the past to defy any challenge ahead.
The Minister for Sports and Culture, Julienne Uwacu, concurred with the President, saying those seeking to return the country to its darkest past stood no chance.
“We will not allow any Rwandans or any other people to destroy what we have achieved since the end of the Genocide,” she told mourners at the memorial before they stood up at noon to observe a minute of silence in honour of Genocide victims.
The Bishop of Kabgayi Diocese, Monsignor Smaragde Mbonyintege, thanked God for restoring dignity to the victims of the Genocide.
Mbonyintege, who doubles as the spokesperson of the Roman Catholic Church in the country and the president of the Episcopal Conference of Rwanda, also prayed for reconciliation among Rwandans, notably between the survivors and perpetrators of the Genocide.
The official mourning week will run through April 13 but the country will continue to engage in commemorative activities for 100 days, signifying the period the Genocide lasted, until July 4, the day Rwandans mark Liberation Day, celebrating the day the former Rwanda Patriotic Army soldiers ended the Genocide.