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Commemorating and Reflecting on the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda

Abel Buhungu

Khartoum — The 7th April of each year marks the beginning of the commemoration of the Genocide against Tutsi which claimed over a million innocent lives not for any crime but for how they were created by Allah or the Almighty.

Commendably, by UNSC Resolution A/RES/58/234 which was modified on 26th January 2018 through UNSC Resolution 58/243, the UN designated 7th April as an “International Day of Reflection on the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda”.

As is the case in Rwanda and across the globe thus, the Rwanda Diplomatic Mission in Sudan will be hosting this important event, Kwibuka27 on 7th April 2021.

The theme for this year’s Commemoration is: “Remember-Unite-Renew”. This is a time when we remember and pay tribute to the over one million souls lost at the hands of a Government whose role if logic had prevailed, was protection and fending for these poor souls.

This is however also a time we must be thankful to the young men and women organized under the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) who in 1990 had begun a liberation struggle against the pre-1994 tyrannical and discriminatory regime in Rwanda.

The RPF which prior to the genocide against Tutsi had signed a Peace Agreement with the pre-1994 regime risked their lives and launched a Campaign against Genocide right after its commencement on 7th April and against many odds thankfully was able to stop it by 4th July 1994. This campaign against genocide was an exemplary act of heroism and for which many among the RPF paid with their lives.

We cannot thank them enough, not only for saving some lives among those targeted for total extermination by the genocidal regime but also for saving Rwanda from total collapse and liberating it from its near-failed state status of 1994.

Background to the Genocide against Tutsi: For centuries, pre-colonial Rwanda existed as a Nation-State, organized in a centralized monarchy under a succession of kings, ruled through Cattle Chiefs, Land Chiefs and Military Chiefs. The king was the supreme ruler, while the rest of the population organized under their social economic classes of Hutu (cultivators), Tutsi (cattle keepers) and Twa (gatherers) lived in symbiotic harmony, with a homogenous culture and one unifying language, Kinyarwanda.

When the colonial masters came, they initiated the divide and rule policy for ensuring total control. In order to achieve this desired objective, they back in 1932 carried out a social research to create some physical differences between the social classes of Twa, Tutsi and Hutu.

By measuring the lengths of the nose and height of members of these social classes, they determined a yardstick for each social class that was now turned into an ethnic group. They then issued ethnic-based National Identity Cards (IDs) categorizing each living Rwandan at the time either as of Hutu, Twa or Tutsi ethnic group.

This act negatively changed the social dynamics of the Rwandan society from then on. Whomever was born after issuance of these IDs in 1933 had identical ethnic group by heritage and thus by National ID.
When the last effective King of Rwanda, Mutara Rudahigwa began his quest for independence in the 1950s and a process to abolish other social injustices that were inflicted on the Rwandan community, it did not auger well with the Colonial masters.

Consequently and in line with the divide and rule policy, in 1957 Colonial masters incited Hutu youths that had been gloomed for the very purpose of an uprising against the King. In 1959, King Mutara Rudahigwa was summoned into a meeting in Bujumbura (Regional Colonial Capital then) by the colonial masters from where he mysteriously died.

In the same vein, public disorder got heightened culminating into the first mass killing of Tutsi and consequent big movement of Tutsi refugees into neighboring countries of Burundi; Uganda; Tanzania and DRC. These were the first fruits of a genocide that was to later reach its climax in 1994.

The Hutu elites that had been groomed by the colonial masters took over after the Rwandan independence in 1962 and new leadership only escalated ethnic based politics. They with impunity exploited the ethnic-based IDs to massacre and subjugate Tutsis. Worth noting is that the same ethnic-based IDs introduced back in 1933 were used to identify and target Tutsis for other follow-up cyclic targeted killings of 1960; 1962; 1973; 1980; 1992 and the climax of them all being the 1994 genocide.

Over a million people were killed between 7th April and 4th July which is an average of 10, 000 deaths per day. This indeed was the fastest killing machinery in the history of genocide, executed by the regime of the time and with tax payers’ money.

This very efficient and fast killing machinery was enabled by: planning, resourcing and execution by whole-government infrastructure; exploitation of ethnic-based IDs to identify Tutsis at roadblocks mounted for this purpose; mass indoctrination by media; and recruitment and training of militia for the genocide (Interahamwe). The ethnic-based IDs were in use from 1933 until they were banished after liberation of Rwanda in July of 1994. To-date National IDs identify us as Rwandan, with no reference to any ethnic group categorization.

The UN and members of the International Community in general failed in their responsibility of preventing Genocide. This is despite timely and numerous warnings both during the planning and preparation phase of the genocide.

These warnings were among others given by General Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian Commander of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (MINUAR), a force that was deployed in Rwanda at the time but most of which withdrew back to their home countries when genocide finally begun on 7th April 1994.

As we commemorate today and pay tribute to the victims, we are cognizant of the fact that remnants of the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi are still roaming the globe along with leaders of terror groups: mainly the FDLR (Ex-FAR/Interahamwe); MRCD/FLN of Paul Rusesabagina, now undergoing trial in Rwanda; and RNC of Kayumba Nyamwasa.

These groups together with their sympathizers use social media and other platforms to not only smear the Government of Rwanda but also with impunity violate UNSC Resolution 2150 (2014) of 16th April 2014 by proliferating denial and revisionism of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.

This not only breeds genocide related impunity, it negatively affects the healing process and reconciliation efforts in Rwanda but it also undermines the global efforts of never having another genocide anywhere.

There is thus need for coordinated international action in denying genocide fugitives and their support networks this undeserved platform for carrying out wanton revisionism and denial, which by the way Genocide Scholars have categorized as the last phase of any genocide. This desired global action is paramount in fighting genocide related impunity and ensuring the world never witnesses another genocide anywhere.

We as Rwandese remain much indebted and cannot thank the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) enough for their heroism and decisive action of moving in at the time of most need and for against many odds ably stopping the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.

We also thank them for the manner in which they have since the liberation of Rwanda in July 1994 worked so diligently to turn around the country’s fortunes from that of a failed state-status of 1994 to that of a respected country in the family of nations.

We thank the RPF under the stewardship of H.E President Paul Kagame for the reconciliation, unity of purpose, dignity and impressive development milestones as well as safety and security Rwandans enjoy today.

Informed by their own history, Rwandans made a strategic choice of practicing consensual as opposed to confrontational politics and accordingly power sharing is now a constitutional prerogative.

Government has initiated many home grown solutions, fervently rebuilt the human capital, created a favourable climate for investment, rebuilt and impressively grown the economy, established and strengthened institutions of democracy and accountability, instituted a proactive foreign policy, initiated and implemented a multitude of people-centered policies and prioritized safety and security for all.

It is by these interventions and others that Rwanda’s fortunes have remarkably been turned around to earn her a dignified place in the global family of nations.

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