“We will not give in to attempts to muffle our voices and actions against Genocide ideology and denial, rather, we will do our best to ensure that all Genocide perpetrators face justice to end impunity,” the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement (EGAM) has said.
It made the pledge on Saturday while in Kigali. The delegation comprised of 23 political leaders and activists from Europe, United States and Africa came to Rwanda to pay tribute to the victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi, listen to survivors’ testimonies including widows and young people so as to know more about their history and that of Rwanda.
Benjamin Abtan, President of EGAM - which has a membership of more than 180 Members of Parliament (MPs) - said that another purpose of their visit was not only “to put more pressure in order to end impunity of the perpetrators, but to also explain to the world about the history of the Genocide and survivors.”
Abtan said that he is impressed with how the country has moved on.
“You can see year after year, that the country has had great evolutions”.
He said in 2014, they launched an initiative known as “Genocide against the Tutsi, the truth right now”, when the French decided to conceal their participation in the Genocide and that they built a unique coalition of youth in political parties from both right and left centres of associations from France and Europe and of intellectuals and activists in order to put pressure on France to recognize responsibilities of some of its citizens, especially military officers who collaborated with the perpetrators before, during and after the Genocide.
“We have enlarged the support from within the political world as well as within the society in order to tell the truth about the history, especially about the French role in the Genocide.
Talking about the challenges that need more effort to address, Abtan said: “We face a lot of pressure, we face a lot of threats, we face a lot of attempts to stop us from speaking, to stop us from getting involved because you know that people, especially in France who were collaborating with perpetrating regime and who should face justice, want to avoid it. They are Genocide deniers who invent other stories because they do not want to face their responsibilities, because they do not want to face justice.”
“In order that the perpetrators face justice, we will fight to have media pressure thanks to our NGO, we will also fight within institutions,” he said, explaining that they are aware and that they are willing to put pressure so that the judicial process gets speeded up.
Chloé Deverly, Vice-president for Fédération Indépendente et Démocratique Lycéenne, a federation of students in the advanced level of secondary studies across France, said that she had not known the magnitude of the Genocide against the Tutsi, noting that the accounts she has now constitutes new knowledge for her.
She was born in 2000, six years after the Genocide. “I work especially on fighting against racism, and the Genocide is based on racist ideas,” she said.
In France, she said, there is a lot of Genocide denial. She said that she learnt about the role of French army in the Genocide against the Tutsi, like supporting [Interahamwe] militia, what is not spoken about in France.
“I knew that people were killed using machetes. I learnt a lot about the responsibility of French people in the Genocide and the behavior of the soldiers because it is common for us that, the French soldiers who were in Rwanda helped the population, that is what we are told in France, ... that they were there for a humanitarian cause, just to save the people,” she said.
Joanna Scheuring-Wielgus, a Member of Polish Parliament and the president of a committee working on human rights and fighting hate speech and hatred between people, said that all those implicated in the Genocide against the Tutsi should be held accountable, adding that anyone who did not help the Tutsi during the Genocide should apologise.
She said that ‘words can kill people,” pointing out that it’s very important to do everything to stop hate between people but ensure respect for everybody.
Founded in November 2010 in Paris, EGAM’s main objective is to answer the rise in racism, antisemitism and populism in Europe and to structure civil society’s commitment to equality and justice.