“Let’s keep the memory of the Genocide against Tutsis by fighting revisionism and rebuilding the country” was the message sent out at the 15th Commemoration organized by the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda.
The event was attended by the Rwandan Diaspora, UK Government Representatives, members of the diplomatic corps and friends of Rwanda.
It included several activities including a church service led by Rev. Ruhumuliza assisted by Rev. Dr. Munyaneza, Pastor Reuben Guma and Joy Byabagamba. The Service was followed by a screening of a documentary and 15 children light 15 candles representing 15 years of peace.
Illuminée Nganemariya, narrated her ordeal at the event. Illuminée, a young bride then, and her newborn son, miraculously survived the barbaric holocaust executed by her Hutu extremist neighbors.
She attributes her survival to the liberation by the Rwandese Patriotic Force (RPF) which stopped the Genocide and saved her life and also halted her exodus to DRC where many Refugees died of Cholera.
Her message to the audience was that for those who still doubt or negate that Genocide took place in Rwanda, she was a living testimony telling the story. In addition, she called on the survivors and fellow Rwandans to have hope despite the legacy left to them by the Genocide.
Brig. General Frank Rusagara was among the speakers at the event. In his remarks, he posed questions which include: Who is responsible for the Genocide and Differences of the Rwandan Genocide and the Holocaust.
He mentioned that the Rwandans are responsible for the tragedy of the Genocide and it is Rwandans who solely stopped it despite the presence and knowledge of the international community of the calamity that befell Rwandans.
Against this background, he justified the approach taken by the Rwandans to ensure justice through Gacaca Courts, which he underscored provide a forum for intra community conflict mediation.
Gen. Rusagara also emphasized that the Gacaca courts give Rwandans the dignity they deserve through providing a collective memory.
He mentioned that the Gacaca forums have allowed gathering of data on detailed personal profiles of victims of the Genocide which takes us away from mere statistics.
He emphasized that the Rwandan Genocide is not different from all others, with the exception that the Rwandan case gets more complicated: Victims still live together with the perpetrators yet in the other Genocides – the Jews for example – they had an option to live separately from their perpetrators.
Rusagara called upon the international community to understand the peculiarity and challenges of the Rwandan problem. He ended by saying that the Rwandans have a clear vision of their destiny.
The Permanent Secretary of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Nemat Shafika, spoke on behalf of the UK Government, she made an emotional statement, acknowledging the tremendous progress made by Rwanda, supported by DFID and other development partners in recovering from the horrors of the 1994 Genocide.
Poverty levels have declined, children are now enrolled in school under the universal education programme, the government has a zero tolerance for corruption, and has the highest record in the world of women representatives. She mentioned that Rwanda remains an excellent partner for UK assistance and pledged continued support.
In his remarks, Ambassador Claver Gatete, mentioned that this period each year marks a dark chapter for Rwandans because they are not only faced with memories of the victims, but people are also still being victimized today.
He added the ongoing denial of the Genocide by the perpetrators and their allies, some of whom call themselves custodians of Human Rights.
He then focused his remarks on the developments and challenges of Rwanda in as far as addressing the issues of justice, governance and addressing the issue of poverty is concerned.
He highlighted the establishment of a fund (5% of national fiscal revenue) to support Genocide survivors, addressing the issue of access to justice through Gacaca courts, creating strong institutions of good governance, reconciliation, and encouraging policies that allow equal participation of all members of the Rwandan society in governance and development, whether they are women, youth or disabled.
The challenges highlighted include: Genocidal forces still in DRC, the large number of Genocide suspects/perpetrators still at large in many countries including Europe, the existence of Genocide deniers many of whom reside in Europe who either negate or deny it outright. He noted with concern that these deniers are given platforms to air their views openly under the pretext of balancing news.
The Ambassador also called upon friends of Rwanda to join hands with members of the Diaspora who have established the “One Dollar Campaign” project in support of the victims of the Genocide.