The United States Mission in Kigali has offered a grant to renovate and conserve Genocide memorial sites in the country as a way of preserving evidence, fighting denial and educating for prevention.
Erica Barks-Ruggles, the US ambassador to Rwanda, said this on Wednesday, at the occasion of remembrance of former embassy staff killed in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Twenty-six people who worked with the US Embassy in Kigali were killed during the Genocide.
“Although we cannot change history, we can stand together to ensure that the lessons that history would teach us are preserved and passed down to future generations. Through the Ambassador’s Fund for Cultural Preservation, we have received a grant that will provide training this June and July to Rwandan experts, enabling them to preserve the important historical artifacts and structures not only at Nyamata where the training will occur, but also at other sites across Rwanda,” Amb. Barks-Ruggles said.
She said the embassy is working with the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG) to help preserve the artifacts at Nyamata so that “there will not be any way to deny what happened in Rwanda. The artifacts at Nyamata are evidence – undeniable evidence that the genocide happened.”
The amount of money to be invested in the initiative is yet to be announced.
“We must stand up to those who try to diminish the events of 1994 and say: it happened. The Genocide happened. We cannot let those who would deny history do so,” she said.
Amb. Barks-Ruggles commended the recent arrest of one of the nine most-wanted fugitives of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, Ladislas Ntaganzwa, the former mayor of Nyakizu.
“We laud the Government of DR Congo for cooperating in extraditing Ntaganzwa,” she said.
The envoy reaffirmed the US government offer of $5 million reward for information leading to the arrest or convinction of any of the five Genocide fugitives still at large.
The five include the so called “Three big fish” in Félicien Kabuga, implicated in organising and funding the Genocide; Augustin Bizimana, former defence minister; and Protais Mpiranya, the former commandant of the presidential guards.
Dr Jean Damascene Gasanabo, the director-general of research and documentation at CNLG, said it is time for the world to commit resources to fighting genocide ideology and bring Genocide fugitives and deniers to justice.
“Those who try to deny or distort our historical truth, weaken our effort to develop, they hinder and slow our journey to achieve our socio-economic transformation,” Gasanabo said.
“This is not only a time for mourning, but also a time to dedicate our resources that genocide will never and can never happen again. Those who deny or negate the Genocide can still be found anywhere.”
The US embassy, through their Local Employee Council, has set aside a fund to support the families of former staff.
Diane Mwiseneze, a survivor who was eight in 1994, still wonders the rationale behind the evacuation of UN peacekeepers in Rwanda and the foreign envoys, including the American embassy—which closed its operations on April 10, 1994, evacuating only its American employees.
Her father, Medard Mwumvaneza, served as a communications assistant at the US embassy in 1994 and was killed six days after the embassy had evacuated its international staff.
She believes had the foreign missions stayed in Rwanda, the killings would have been contained.
“When the tension was intense and killings had escalated in Kigali, on the night of April 16, my dad made a call at the embassy and no one picked his call. We could not understand the silence, bearing in mind that the embassy officials would call him at any given time asking him for various information,” Mwiseneza said.
“My father was killed with my brother David. We haven’t understood the isolation by the peacekeepers and the international community that left our parents and loved ones to die.”
Mwiseneza, however, lauded the embassy for initiating a fund to support orphans of former embassy staff in school and their families.