Twenty-three years since the Genocide against the Tutsi, the international community is yet to draw lessons from the tragedy, the president of the umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors, Ibuka, Prof. Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu said on Tuesday.
Addressing thousands of people who showed up at Nyanza, Kicukiro District to commemorate thousands who were killed in the area when United Nations peacekeepers abandoned them in April, 1994, Prof. Dusingizemungu said that it was surprising that the world continues to ignore atrocities all over the world.
The world has not learnt from past tragedies which showed what happens when the world closes its eyes to atrocities, he said.
“We always converge here in Nyanza-Kicukiro, on this particular date to remember the historical events that took place here in 1994. Every time we come here, we remind the international community that they abandoned Rwanda, hoping that what happened here can serve as a lesson to everyone but it’s very surprising to see that nothing has been learnt up to now since it’s obvious that they still ignore places where atrocities are taking place, a case in point at the moment being Burundi,” he said.
Prof. Dusingizemungu pointed out that those who deny the Genocide against the Tutsi always use the excuse of freedom of expression and implored Rwandans and the rest of the world no to fall for this trickery.
“Those who deny the Genocide tend to use the freedom of expression excuse but people should always think critically and ask themselves if people who urge others to destroy what has been achieved deserve the platform to continue espousing hate messages and distorting history”
“We will never get tired of telling the truth about the past and present,” he said.
He said that the French government’s involvement in the preparation and execution of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi is a stain on France’s history.
Those behind attempts to deny or trivialise the Genocide against the Tutsi are driven by shame and guilt because of their support of the genocidaires, including training the Interahamwe militia who committed the Genocide, the Ibuka head noted.
“France is one of the countries that took the lead on this (the tragedy that befell Rwanda). We will not give up on our obligation to remind anyone who had a hand in what happened to Rwanda of their complicity,” he said.
The Speaker of Parliament, Donatille Mukabalisa, commended government’s efforts to unite the people of Rwanda.
Mukabalisa recalled that United Nations abandoned Rwanda in its hour of need when it withdrew its peacekeepers from the country, effectively leaving those that were being hunted at the mercy of the Interahamwe militia and the ex-FAR.
This, she said, happened yet the UN had all the resources required to stop the Genocide.
“The UN forces had the ability to stop the killings but they didn’t. Instead, they packed up and left. Remembering this has helped us to think of ways of finding homegrown solutions of how best we can be self-reliant, to have some self respect, which is why today, we have reached a level that we’re very proud of and why we continue to strive to do better,” she said.
In particular, the UN forces (UNAMIR) are blamed for the slaughter of over 2,000 Tutsi on April 11 shortly after their withdrawal from the former ETO-Kicukiro (now IPRC-Kigali) compound where the Tutsi had taken refuge.
They were subsequently attacked by the militia and forced to walk for kilometers up to Nyanza where they were brutally killed, along with thousands others.
Their remains were later interred at the Nyanza Genocide memorial where thousands kept a vigil on Tuesday night in memory of the lost lives. The memorial is home to the remains of some 11,000 victims.
The speaker pointed out that Rwanda is now a nation on the rise, has gained friends, and continues on the path of rapid economic development and unity.
Those at the commemoration event also heard from Gaspard Kalisa who saved about eleven Tutsi. He attributed his deeds to lessons from his parents from a young age and the support of his wife.
“If you can teach a child something bad, you definitely can teach them something good. From a young age, I was lucky to grow up in a religious family with my father always telling us that we are all the same people and equal before God.
“He discouraged segregation of any sort and by the time of the Genocide against the Tutsi, I was determined to live by those principles and I decided that if anyone is to die, I will die trying to protect them,” he said.
About the Nyanza-Kicukiro Genocide memorial
The Nyanza-Kicukiro Genocide Memorial site was constructed on April 11, 1996. Victims buried at Nyanza were Tutsi who sought refuge at the former Kicukiro Technical School (ETO-Kicukiro) where Belgian peacekeepers serving under UNAMIRwere based.
When the peacekeepers were ordered to withdraw on April 11, over 2,000 Tutsi were forced to march to Nyanza where they were executed. Nyanza Genocide Memorial serves as a final resting place for over 11,000 victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Some 3,000 victims were executed at the site, while 9,000 were killed in the surrounding areas. On the night of April 11, 1994, RPA soldiers (the then rebels that eventually liberated the country and stopped the Genocide on July 4, 1994), from Rebero mountain, rescued 97 people from Nyanza.
While the official mourning week will be closed today with an event at Rebero memorial in honour of the politicians who were killed during the Genocide, events to commemorate the killings will continue until July 3 – spanning 100 days, the same number of days that the slaughter lasted.