Rwandan President Paul Kagame lights the perpetual flame in remembrance of the victims of the 1994 genocide
Rwandan President Paul Kagame lights the perpetual flame in remembrance of the victims of the 1994 genocide

Remembering genocide against Tutsi, upholding collective human dignity

Sunday, April 7, 2024, marked the beginning of the 30th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi.

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It is a period to remember the lives of more than one million people who were brutally killed during 100 days from April to mid-July 1994. This period of remembrance is called “Kwibuka”, meaning “to remember” in Kinyarwanda – Rwanda’s only native language.

Annually for the past 30 years, Kwibuka has been a solemn period of reflection when Rwandans and our friends come together to honour the victims of the Genocide by uniting in our collective grief and in the renewal of our commitment to continue building a better future for all Rwandans.

April 7 is a United Nations-designated International Day of Reflection on the Genocide Against the Tutsi. It is also marked by the African Union as the Day of Remembrance of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi.

This important act of preserving memory and ensuring the accurate re-telling of history matters to Rwandans and although it might not be immediately apparent, it is important to all of us as humans. 

Benefit

Every nation can benefit from reflecting on the lessons from this preventable Genocide that resulted from decades of preaching hatred and division by post-independence politicians who exacerbated the effects of the colonial divide-and-rule policy.

Thirty years ago, over one million Tutsi were murdered just for being Tutsi. Similarly, anyone who opposed the government’s intent to annihilate the Tutsi was hunted and killed.

This heinous crime happened in plain sight with an international community that was largely indifferent to the horrific violence, while some countries were complicit in the killings supporting the genocidal machinery.

The slaughter was only halted when the Rwandan Patriotic Front took Kigali and defeated the genocidaires, establishing a Government of National Unity on July 19, 1994. 
The Genocide Against the Tutsi showed what can happen when an ideology built on hatred is allowed to flourish unchecked by those with the power to intervene.

Foreign governments

Although foreign governments and international institutions failed Rwanda in our greatest hour of need, many brave foreigners on the ground made heroic contributions and we have our deepest gratitude.

For example, the Ghanaian contingent within the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) stayed and saved lives under the most difficult circumstances contrary to the United Nations (UN) order to evacuate UNAMIR troops from Rwanda when the killings started.

In recognition of their bravery and solidarity exhibited during the Genocide Against the Tutsi, the President of Rwanda, His Excellency Paul Kagame, on July 4, 2022, celebrated the outstanding bravery of Major General Henry Kwami Anyidoho(Retired) and Major General Joseph Adinkrah (Retired) and awarded them with the National Order of Bravery, which recognises an individual or group of individuals who in an exemplary way demonstrated outstanding supreme acts of sacrifice to save the life of one or many people.

As President Kagame noted: “Where others fled or were withdrawn by their governments leaving Rwandans to their faith, these officers remained and continued to lead their men and women and they did what was right to do.”  

Internationally, New Zealand, Nigeria and the Czech Republic used their positions on the UN Security Council to press for the institution to act. These few voices did what they could to raise the alarm with a world that was choosing not to listen.

Beyond remembering the individual stories, this significant commemoration provides an opportunity for the world to reflect on the lessons of the Genocide Against the Tutsi and the battle to preserve the integrity of its historical accounts. 

Efforts

There has been a concerted effort to deny that the Genocide happened in the way we know it did. These genocide deniers use various tactics, ranging from questioning the numbers of victims — despite having no evidence to contradict the verified figures — to blaming the victims for causing the Genocide. They even go as far as creating false equivalencies by suggesting that a double genocide took place.

These tactics are not new. They have been deployed by perpetrators and deniers of other genocides such as the Holocaust. But if we are not careful, this distortion of historical facts — supercharged by social media and AI tools now in the hands of deniers — could be deployed across the world turning true history into contested debate.

Rwanda’s history has shaped our shared identity — this is why the historical clarity about the Genocide Against the Tutsi is of national and international importance. 

Memories

The memorials Rwanda maintains (four of which have been designated UNESCO World Heritage sites) are vital to anchoring the truth, and truth is essential to reconciliation and renewal. The artefacts we preserve are our evidence, and the stories we tell are witness testimony.

Our collective memory also provides the world with a warning that the ideology which drove the Genocide must not be allowed to flourish and spread ever again. This is unfortunately happening today just beyond Rwanda’s borders.

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On April 7 and beyond, we ask that Ghana stand in solidarity with Rwanda today as it did 30 years ago. We ask that you do this to honour the memory of all Rwandans who lost their lives, the Ghanaian contingent and others who did their best to help during Rwanda’s darkest hour. 

We ask for your solidarity in preserving the true account of Rwanda’s history so that the world can match the words ‘never again’ with tangible action to prevent history from repeating itself, and in the fight against its denial, trivialisation or revisionism.

As we remember, it is of equal importance that we continue to ensure that justice is delivered by bringing to book all perpetrators of the Genocide. By preserving the true memory of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, we accord deserved dignity to the victims who were inhumanly killed, we share in the pain and suffering experienced by survivors of the Genocide and more importantly, we assure each other that together, as citizens of Africa and of the world, we are committed to protecting the inviolability of the dignity of each one of us.

The writer is the High Commissioner of Rwanda to Ghana also accredited to
Ivory Coast, Benin, Togo, Sierra Leone and Liberia.
Writer’s email: [email protected]

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