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Rwanda Rebuilt Against her Destiny Following the Tragic Devastation by the 1994 Genocide Against Tutsi

Abel Buhungu
The Head of Rwanda Diplomatic Mission in Sudan

Rwandans and members of the International Community will on 7th April commemorate the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. This is also in line with UNSC Resolution A/RES/58/234 which together with UNSC Resolution 58/243 of 26th January 2018 designates 7th April as an International Day of Reflection on the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

The 1994 genocide against Tutsi is the darkest chapter of Rwanda’s history with over one million people mercilessly hacked to death beginning on 7th April through to 4th July 1994. A historical product of the divide and rule politics of the Colonial Masters initiated for ensuring total control. This evil policy got institutionalized by the two successive post-independence Republics from 1962 to 1994. The first victims of this divide and rule ideology date back to 1959 when mass killings of Tutsi began in what the colonial masters called a social revolution. Hundreds of thousands run into exile in neighboring countries.

Those who remained inside the country were relegated to second-class citizens and got subjected to whims of cyclic killings over three decades. The climax of this hate and discrimination against Tutsi culminated in a well-orchestrated plan for their total extermination by the Government in 1994 amidst a repugnant silence of the International Community. Given that 7th April falls under the period of Holly Ramadan, for the convenience of many, Rwanda Diplomatic Mission in Sudan will be hosting the 28th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi on 12th May 2022.

Commemoration of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi is a time for remembering and paying tribute to the innocent souls mercilessly butchered at the hands of their Government. It is a time we appreciate the resilience of genocide survivors who still carry with them both bodily and psychological scars of the genocide. It is a time we give commendation to the young men and women united under the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) who in 1990 launched the liberation struggle to end a state of statelessness that over a million Rwandan refugees had been subjected to and millions of others inside the country discriminated against based on their ethnic classification and in some cases their region of origin. This is also a time for honoring the RPF for their heroic campaign against Genocide that against many odds stopped it by 4th July 1994.

Historically, Rwanda has existed for over five centuries as a Nation-State. As generally expected of the era, pre-colonial Rwanda was organized as a centralized monarchy under a King. The King was the supreme ruler with ordinary Rwandans organized into socio-economic classes of Hutu (cultivators), Tutsi (cattle keepers), and Twa (gatherers). There were intermarriages and fluidity in the socio-economic classes where a cultivator who out of hard work or otherwise acquired ten or more cows (a then measure of wealth) could join the Tutsi class. A Tutsi could also slide into the Hutu class if he lost his cows. They all lived in harmony with no inter-communal violence, had a homogenous culture and one unifying language, Kinyarwanda.

In their divide and rule ideology, however, Colonial Masters back in 1932 through very controversial research turned around these socio-economic classes into ethnic identities. This artificially created ethnic classification was entrenched by the colonial administration by the issuance of National Identities (NIDs) that identified Rwandans either as Twa, Tutsi, or Hutu. This act drastically metamorphosed the social dynamics of Rwandan society. The kids were from 1959 used in discriminating against Tutsi and most lamentably in identifying them for targeted killings even long before the 1994 genocide.

The build-up to the 1994 genocide was preceded by cyclic killings of Tutsis starting in 1959 through to the genocide itself. Further early evidence for the meticulous planning of the genocide relates to the recruitment, training, and arming of killer-Militias called Interahamwe in the early 1990s, intensification of hate propaganda by public and private radios (National radio and the notorious RTLM); hate and dehumanization by print media (e.g Kangura) as well as Government officials that characterized Tutsi as snakes and cockroaches that deserve total extermination; glorification of the killing of Tutsi by calling it ‘Gukora’ (work) or ‘Umuganda’ (community work); negative theorization that Tutsis historically didn’t belong to Rwanda and ‘must be sent back to their origin using the short-cut of river Nile (read, dumping them in river Nile).

Derived from the foregoing, early warning cables on the planned Genocide were sent to the United Nations by General Romeo Dallaire, Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Mission (UNAMIR) which was deployed in Rwanda back in 1993. Absurdly, when the genocide began on 7th April 1994, the UN ordered a partial withdrawal of the Peacekeeping force which was 1,700 strong, leaving behind only two hundred seventy (270) soldiers who could at most observe the carnage, thus leaving Rwandese at their peril.

Thankfully and heroically, the RPF came to the rescue of the country by launching its military campaign against Genocide which stopped it, saved lives, and liberated the entire country by 4th July 1994.

Indeed the 1994 genocide against Tutsi remains a hallmark stubborn reminder of the biggest failure of the international community at the close of the 20th Century. This genocide however still rears its ugly head through genocide denial and revisionism which scholars classify as the last phase of Genocide. This Genocide denial and revisionism are propagated by genocide fugitives and their support networks across the globe.

The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG) unanimously adopted by the UN General Assembly on 9th December 1948 was born out of a bonafide necessity to ensure Genocide never happened anywhere again. Yes, this UN Convention criminalizes genocide and obliges State Parties to enforce its prohibition but alas it happened with impunity in 1994.

Further, the International Community through UNSC Resolution 2150(2014) of 16th April 2014 on prevention and fight against Genocide and other serious crimes, obliges the stopping of all forms of genocide-related impunity by apprehending all fugitives of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi for trial either in Rwanda or in their current jurisdictions of abode. This should curtail this last phase of genocide and contribute to the protection of genocide survivors who are grossly affected by trauma resulting from genocide denial and revisionism.

The post-genocide government faced numerous challenges not least: a destroyed moral fabric; economic devastation; acute lack of human capital; thousands of vulnerable genocide survivors; millions of refugees herded into exile in Eastern DRC as hostages of the former Genocidal Government and used as a source of military recruits for another comeback to finish their genocide mission; genocide ideology that hampered efforts geared towards the rebuilding of unity, reconciliation, and transitional/restorative justice.

But the successful ending of the genocide ushered in a very focused and results-oriented leadership that was characterized by a high sense of urgency for delivering to the aspirations of the Rwandese. These aspirations include: stopping all manner of discrimination and immediate banishment of ethnic-based identity cards.

Moreover, the new leadership’s vision of liberation was much broader and included resolving root causes for going into exile, ensuring security and justice for all, reconciliation and rebuilding unity, and ushering in an all-inclusive economic development paradigm. Indeed, central to Rwanda’s rebirth from her 1994 destiny of a failed state has been a leader that has had all Rwandese at heart and is results-focused.

A leadership that has prioritized reconciliation and the rebuilding of unity as opposed to revenge that simple human instinct could otherwise have dictated. Informed by the revived Rwandan values and her internal context, the post-Genocide RPF-led Government enlisted many individuals both from the former regime and opposition political parties that had had no known role in the 1994 genocide against Tutsi.

The same policy was used in establishing a national army, national Police, and other security institutions. The broad-based transitional Government lasted until the Presidential elections of 2003 which were conducted after the promulgation of the new Constitution in 2000. This Constitution, later revised in 2015, has institutionalized power-sharing. No winning party in presidential elections can have more than 50% of Cabinet members or more than 50% of the Legislature. More so, the President of the Republic and Speaker of Parliament must be from different political parties.

Despite the institutionalization of power-sharing as opposed to winner takes all, however, there is always special observance of one’s delivery competencies. The Constitution also provides for a minimum of 30% women representation in all arms of Government. Indeed gender parity is high on Government’s agenda and for example, women now comprise 61% of Parliament and 54% of the Cabinet. There is equal access to education and a guaranteed right to other national resources.

To ensure maximum delivery, there is a well-elaborated system of performance-based contracts as well as a monitoring and evaluation mechanism established in the Prime Minister’s office. Given Rwanda’s internal context and her unique challenges, numerous Rwandan homegrown solutions and policy choices have been initiated and implemented.

With the country’s Gacaca transitional justice that was restorative and helped expedite Genocide related cases; prioritization of unity and reconciliation; efforts of fighting genocide ideology and its related impunity; choice of an economic development model that is inclusive and people-centered; ensuring security and justice for all; choice of consensual as opposed to confrontational democracy and taking decision making closer to the people, Rwanda’s fortunes have been turned around.

Rwandans have reconciled, human capital rebuilt, the economy is generally on an impressive growth trajectory and the country is one of the most secure, ranking 2nd biggest contributor to UN Peacekeeping and this year was ranked 6th Safest Country in the World and 1st in Africa for Solo Travellers (Userbounce.com).

Relatedly, with Vision2020 promulgated in the year 2000 and its succeeding blueprint Vision2050, the general trajectory of the economy is reassuring to Rwandans despite the bad spell caused by COVID19. The economy for sixteen years until the COVID19 global disruption in 2020 had grown at an average of 8%. With the ramping up of COVID19 vaccination across the country (now nearing 70% of the entire population) and related full reopening of economic activities, the economy which contracted by 3.4% in 2020 due to lockdowns, is according to the Minister of Finance and IMF rebounding with a 10.2% growth in 2021.

With the now waned COVID19 pandemic, there is no doubt the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in Kigali this June. Rwanda’s rich experience as a destination for big conferences, sports tournaments, and other events coupled with her ever-growing world-class hotels.

For example, from zero (0) five-star hotels/boutiques in the year 2000 to nine now and many more, CHOGM guests are assured of their most comfortable stay in a serene environment and a results-packed meeting.

We meanwhile note and delight in the gradually growing interest in Rwanda by Sudan-based businesses/investors and hope for its continued progression. We wish to encourage more visits to Rwanda by Sudan residents not only for business but also for tourism and more people-to-people interactions.

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