A team from the African Union (AU) are in the country to conduct consultations on the establishment of the African Union Human Rights Memorial (AUHRM), which is spearheaded by Rwanda and Ethiopia.
The meeting, that was facilitated by AU’s Director of Political Affairs, Dr Khabele Matlosa, sought to adopt a concept note for the project and terms of reference for the design competition of the AUHRM.
The executive secretary of Rwanda Academy of Languages and Culture (RALC), Dr James Vuningoma, who represented the Minister for Sports and Culture at yesterday’s meeting in Kigali, said the establishment of the memorial centre will be of great significance to the entire continent and future generations.
“The presence of the memorial at the AU headquarters will help us, decision-makers and future generations to reflect on the tragic past that our continent experienced and hence work toward a sustainable future,” he said.
Vuningoma added that as a country that experienced genocide even after the international community had committed itself to never let it happen again, for Rwanda, it was a great opportunity to be part of the initiative and it welcomed the putting in place of measures that could prevent genocide and other atrocities on the continent.
“Having gone through the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, Rwanda, as a party to the Genocide Convention of 1948, is committed to preventing and punishing this crime,” Vuningoma said.
“It resolutely believes in the preamble of that international legal instrument that plainly stipulates that genocide is a crime under international law, contrary to the spirit and aims of the United Nations and condemned by the civilised world.”
It is anticipated that the consultative meetings will, among others, agree on the size of space that could be allocated to the project at the AU premises, the size and shape of the permanent site, decide on the documentation centre and explore the possibility of creating a virtual presence that will function as a hub for survivors, various memorial centres, museums, academic institutions, donor agencies and other interested parties.
Lesson from Rwanda experience
Matlosa said the memorial might be launched in January 2016, the year set aside as the Human Rights Year with a special focus on women.
He also said Africa had learned from Rwanda and it was in that regard that they want to make sure such atrocities never happen again on the continent.
“If the memorial is not launched in January, then it will be in June during the annual general assembly. We want people to know that we have learned a lot from Rwanda and we want a peaceful Africa. When we build peace and democracy, we build for a better world for future generations,” Matlosa said.
The AUHRM project aims to preserve the memory of mass atrocities, in recognition of past suffering and in the interests of future peace and security.
The AU established, in its constitutive act, a commitment to continental cooperation on the basis of human rights principles, constitutionalism, and the responsibility to intervene in the case of crimes against humanity or genocide.
The AUHRM will reflect a series of grave crimes committed against Africans, including the appalling case of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The plan for a memorial originates in a resolution adopted on April 7, 2004, on the occasion of the tenth commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
It made the commemoration of the Genocide in Rwanda on April 7 an annual event on the AU calendar.