‘Never forget’ was the message as British parliamentarians, survivors of the Rwandan genocide, the UK’s Minister for Africa, and civil society representatives Wednesday gathered to mark the 15th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis.
The memorial ceremony was hosted by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on the Great Lakes of Africa Region and was attended by Rwandan Ambassador Claver Gatete.
Led by the group’s chair, Eric Joyce MP, participants at the event read testimonies from genocide survivors and heard statements from two of them, Jean-Louis Mazimpaka and Christine Blewitt.
Christine, an infant at the time of the genocide, now lives in the UK with her foster-parents.
Lord Malloch Brown, the UK Minister for Africa, Asia and the UN, read ‘Uyisenga’s testimony’.
Stephen Crabb MP, an officer of the APPG who visited Rwanda and met survivors in 2007, added a final survivor’s testimony.
James Smith of Aegis Trust reflected on the importance of keeping genocide memory alive and David Russell of SURF, spoke on the genocide’s impact on survivors. The event was broadcast on the BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme.
Ambassador Gatete noted that the challenges are far from being over but he said that the Government continues to work with its development partners to address them.
He highlighted the challenges as: Genocidal forces still in DRC, the large number of genocide suspects/perpetrators still at large in many countries including those in Europe.
He also singled out the existence of genocide deniers, many of whom reside in Europe, who either negate the genocide or deny the genocide outright. He noted with concern that these deniers are given platforms to air their views openly.
The APPG organised the event to ensure that fifteen years on, the genocide and its survivors are not forgotten by the UK government, and that continued efforts are made to help survivors and support reconciliation, particularly in light of continued cases of reprisal killings of survivors who testify against genocidaires in the country.
The APPG particularly highlighted the need for continued support to women and children who remain vulnerable in the wake of the events of 1994.
With over 200 members, the All Party Group is one of the largest in parliament. It was formed in 1998 following a visit to Rwanda by Oona King MP, and now works to support peace, development and democracy in the whole Great Lakes region.
Several members of the APPG are currently pressing for legislative changes to close loopholes which could allow genocide suspects in the UK to escape justice.