World hunt for genocidaires must be expedited

Nineteen years ago Rwanda was all but destroyed as the world looked on. More than one million people were brutally killed, other horrific crimes against human dignity committed and pillaging and plunder happened on an unprecedented scale.
Joseph Rwagatare
Joseph Rwagatare

Nineteen years ago Rwanda was all but destroyed as the world looked on. More than one million people were brutally killed, other horrific crimes against human dignity committed and pillaging and plunder happened on an unprecedented scale.

But Rwanda defied the actions and intentions of the perpetrators of the Genocide and their foreign backers and mentors and survived.

The Genocide had been expected to end Rwanda as it had always existed. Mercifully, that did not happen.

When that failed, it was expected that the job would be finished by acts of blind revenge. That, too, did not happen. Instead, a remarkable reconciliation and forgiveness has taken place. Of course, this is difficult for non-Rwandans to understand, being steeped in a world of extremes as they are.

If this could not finish us off, then surely heavy grief and sorrow, despair and depression would. Nothing of the sort happened – at least not to the extent the authors of genocide and their backers had expected. The spirit of Rwandans could not be broken. A stubborn streak to bounce back from adversity (aka resilience) ensured that we did not only overcome, but also regained hope and confidence to live and strive for a better life.

And if all these did not complete the job, then certainly a shattered economy, built on very little in the first place, and starved of external support would deal the final blow.

That, too, failed. The economy was rebuilt at a pace that left many aghast, and it has been growing at a rate not seen before in the country.

 And so, nearly twenty years later, Rwandans have rebuilt the country to a level unimaginable at the time some people gleefully looked on as it was burning.

In normal circumstances a country that defied every known prediction of doom, that literally came back from hell; a people who, through sheer will, refused to succumb to what appeared inevitable, should attract universal admiration.

But no, that would be too much – not even for the groups that have arrogated to themselves the role of protecting people’s rights, who should have seen in Rwanda’s resilience the proof of what they stand for.

What protection of human rights is greater than the protection of life itself – which is what the RPF did when it stopped the genocide? What is greater than striving to improve people’s lives and giving them back their human dignity? For most normal people, these are the very definition of human rights. Rights groups, of course, have a different yardstick fashioned on another planet and clearly a different agenda.

It is not surprising that Rwanda’s defiance of all odds has continued to excite more ire and hatred from genocidaires, their supporters and apologists around the world.

I suppose in a world that is not quite normal, where headlines determine the value of most things and the attention they get, and the more spectacular the more valuable they are, it may be asking too much to expect that a people’s quiet heroism will qualify for attention.

Now, Rwandans are not craving for recognition for doing what is right and good for us. We have only done our duty.

However, as President Paul Kagame said in his message for this year’s genocide commemoration, we expect others to face up to their responsibility and do towards us what is right – apprehend the genocidaires and bring them to justice. There are many genocide suspects living, working and moving freely in various countries across the world. Despite efforts by the government of Rwanda and anti-genocide groups, few of these have been brought to book.

This is happening when we are bombarded daily with exhortations about the need to end impunity for people who have committed crimes against humanity. The clamour for this has assumed the dimensions of a call to arms – rather like the war against terrorism.

A lot of money and effort have been expended on attempts to arrest and bring to trial people suspected of committing crimes against humanity. Strangely, these do not include perpetrators of the genocide against the Tutsi.

Clearly the international community pays only lip service to the fight to end impunity. At best it is selective and will be waged when it serves the interests of some.

Rwandans have some admirable qualities that have enabled us to face tragedy and not be held hostage by it. We are patient, resilient and ready to forgive when there is evidence of contrition. We learnt a long time ago that we must move on. But the qualities we have and the lessons we learnt do not include forgetting, especially where there is unfinished business.

In this case, the unfinished business includes bringing to justice all those who committed the genocide in Rwanda. All countries have a moral obligation to ensure this happens. That way, the call for an end to criminal impunity will truly have meaning.


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