President Paul Kagame on Sunday became the first African Head of State to address the pro-Israel AIPAC Policy Conference during which he issued a rallying call for global solidarity in the fight against genocide ideology and denial.
Rwanda and Israel both bore the brunt of the most virulent form of human savagery the world has ever witnessed but the two countries today share a vision of hope as well as an unwavering commitment to prevent the recurrence of such tragedies.
Brutality and bigotry are not limited to societies that have suffered from these excesses before. Any country and community can fall victim to the worst consequences of intolerance and perpetual impunity.
Indeed long before the Genocide against the Tutsi, the Holocaust against the Jews, and other racist-inspired atrocities elsewhere in the world, the future victims and perpetrators lived side by side. The problem came when those charged with keeping social harmony turned against those they were meant to protect, sowing the seeds of division and espousing an ideology that, over time, eroded the dignity and rights of the eventual victims, thus setting the stage for the genocides.
A genocide leaves deep scars on the conscience of humanity globally largely because, while there was a chance for sober human beings to act and prevent the atrocities, they chose to idly stand by, many even working so hard to cover up for the truth in a desperate effort to avoid potential legal and moral obligations.
Like they say, remaining silent in the face of evil is the same as supporting it.
This is true today as it was during the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda and the Holocaust in Europe.
Human beings have a habit of failing to learn from history. As it has repetitively happened before, faced with situations that require bold action to thwart evil and save life, we have often buried our heads in the sand, only hoping for the better. It’s always a case of hope against hope.
We tend to cower when faced with difficult subjects. We don’t want to rub anyone the wrong way, even rampaging monsters. We just wish these challenges away. This even when we know what we ought to be doing to stop evil. And in an effort to clear our conscience we spend more time feigning ignorance and wondering which terms to use to describe what’s happening, only to later fall over our heels competing to condemn what happened.
Humankind can do better. We need to confront difficult situations head on, wherever they play out.
Genocide, terrorism and hate have no boundary, race, or religion. An existential threat to any human being or a group of people should be treated as an existential threat to mankind.
We cannot change history. But we can reckon with its consequences and chart a better future. We can hold to account those responsible for past tragedies. We should not only deny the perpetrators a safe haven but actively help bring them to book. Only ending impunity will send out a strong message to other potential perpetrators and eventually help end the cycle of violence.