THE UNITED NATIONS UN Resident Coordinator, Lamin Manneh, has said the UN still regrets its ‘inaction’ during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which saw over one million people killed in 100 days.
The withdrawal by the UN peacekeepers from former ETO Kicukiro, leaving about 3,000 Tutsi at the mercy of killers is not the only incident where the international community left Rwandans to die at the hands of Interahamwe.
During the Genocide, the UN Rwanda chapter also evacuated its international expatriates, briefly relocating to Nairobi, Kenya — leaving 65 Rwandans working with all the 13 arms of One UN Rwanda to be killed.
Manneh said it was from this “painful lesson” that the international community formulated a policy in 1996 to evacuate even local staff in case any mass killings occurred anywhere else around the world.
Manneh was speaking at the occasion of the 22nd commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, held at UNDP country offices in Kigali.
“The United Nations has learned a lot from the tragic events that unfolded in Rwanda 22 years ago. It is a painful lesson for the UN, as everybody knew, that period characterised it as an inactive organisation; that unfortunately it could not save its staff members,” Manneh said.
“The commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda is our duty, and an opportunity to look back in 1994 and the challenges that followed the sad period that we all know. It is an opportunity to learn from the errors of the past and to build a better world, where genocide will never again be allowed by humanity to happen in any country.”
MP Zeno Mutimura, who was the chief mourner, said had the international community observed the need to protect civilians, the Genocide could not have occurred.
Although the Genocide was committed by Rwandans themselves, it was committed under the indifferent eye of the international community, Mutimura said.
Mutimura, who is also the chairperson of parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Cooperation and Security, added that the UN had information on its (Genocide) preparation, as the warnings of the Genocide had been raised before by many people, but it did not act.
“We sadly recall the presence of 250,000 strong peacekeeping forces, under the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR), that only looked on as Tutsi were being killed, but also withdrew its forces at the helm of the Genocide,” Mutimura said.
He added that Rwanda’s case should rebuild stronger resolve in the UN to fight any tendencies of discrimination and respond to any signs that would lead to loss of lives, including genocide ideology.
Mutimura said commemoration should serve to create awareness for the truth of the Genocide against the Tutsi, and pull efforts to fight against ideology, denial, and revisionism.
“The international community has to play its role in preventing the Genocide and mass killings against humanity. ‘Never again’ should cease being a mere slogan,” Mutimura added.
Dr Jean-Damascene Gasanabo, the director-general of research and documentation at CNLG, said Rwanda has kept its focus on fighting genocide ideology and responding to it because there are increased tendencies of denial—which demeans Rwanda’s pursuit of unity and reconciliation.
“We are seeing more and more genocide denial across the world. The denial must be countered with the utmost force. It is the responsibility of everyone, including the international community, to classify genocide ideology and fight it,” Gasanabo said.
He added that Rwanda would continue to work with the UN and the international community to ensuring a globe that is free of discrimination and consequently a Genocide-free world.
Manneh said regardless of the UN’s previous “inaction” in the face of unfolding genocidal forces, the organisation could at least partner with Rwanda in the post-genocide era to rebuild the nation.
“After the tragic events of 1994 in Rwanda, the UN family in Rwanda has proved to be a valuable partner to Rwanda in its efforts at rapid and sustainable recovery, reconstruction and inclusive development,” the UN country representative said.
Manneh added that One UN is committed to working with the Government of Rwanda in fighting all aspects of genocide, including ideology.
“We have witnessed the worst of genocide in Rwanda. We have the duty to say no to all forms of genocide. The “Never again” we say every day, has to move from theory to practice,” Manneh said.
He also commended the courage of Rwandans for not only stopping the Genocide but also fostering unity and reconciliation.
“This unique courage and sacrifice has led to the Rwanda we have today, a Rwanda that is enjoying peace and security, a country that has embraced unity and reconciliation as a cornerstone for sustainable development,” Manneh said.