The 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda and its stopping

By : Abel Buhungu: Head of Rwanda Diplomatic Mission

A True Representation of Worst and Best of Humankind
Rwandans and Members of the International Community will again this 7th April commemorate the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. Given that 7th April falls under the period of Holly Ramadan however, Rwanda Diplomatic Mission in Sudan will host the 29th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi on 4th May 2023. This is a time for remembering and paying tribute to the innocent souls mercilessly butchered at the hands of their own Government during the genocide. It is a time we mourn with and encourage genocide survivors to stay course of resilience despite the grief and burden they still carry. It is a time we give commendation to the young men and women united under Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) who in 1990 launched a liberation struggle that ended the statelessness that over a million Rwandan refugees endured for over three decades as well as the subjugation and impoverishment that Rwandese inside the country were suffering. It is a time we honour the RPF for their heroic military campaign which helped stop the Genocide by 4th July 1994 when the International Community had left Rwandese at the mercy of their killers.

As the English saying ‘you can never know where you are going if you don’t know where you are coming from’. Commemoration of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi is indispensable in teaching history to the youth both in Rwanda and around the world to be guided on consequences that come with discrimination and hate. The 1994 genocide against Tutsi was a culmination of decades of impunity characterized by hate, discrimination and dehumanization against Tutsi directed and supervised by Government. Rooted in the Colonial policy of divide and rule, Post-Independence Republics nurtured and practiced divisive politics that rendered over a million Rwandan Tutsi stateless for over three decades without consequences from the international community. Targeted killings of Tutsi begun in 1959 followed by further cyclic killings after gaining independence in 1962. Meanwhile, with decades of impunity that resulted from inaction by the international community, Government carried out a meticulous planning followed by an aggressive campaign for total extermination of all Tutsi. Bizarrely, when the genocide begun on 7th April 1994, the United Nations withdrew bulk of its Peacekeeping Force (MINUAR) deployed in Rwanda from August 1993 following signing of a Peace Agreement between Government and the Rwanda Patriotic Front. It is thanks to the military campaign against genocide launched by the RPF that some lives were saved, genocide stopped and the country liberated by 4th July 1994.

The 1994 genocide against Tutsi will forever remain the darkest chapter of Rwanda’s history. The genocide against Tutsi was unprecedented both in scale, speed and the cruelty with which it was carried out. Planned and resourced by Government, this human-engineered tragedy led to butchering of over one million Tutsi in a space of only one hundred days, averaging 10,000 innocent lives per day. The killing scale and speed was enabled by: numbers of traditional and conventional weapons; involvement of national security as well as tens of thousands of militias recruited and trained for this purpose. Killing methods included slaughtering, burying people alive, removing of fetuses, drowning of people in rivers and other forms of worst cruelty such as forcing family members to kill their own. This unimaginable tragedy happened despite advance public knowledge of its planning by the International Community.

Evidence for planning of the genocide whose piecemeal execution begun back in 1959 included: recruitment and training of militia called INTERAHAMWE; intensification of dehumanization speeches against Tutsi; importation and distribution of millions of machetes; distribution of conventional weapons to the masses; establishment of radical anti-Tutsi political parties e.g. Coalition pour la Defense de la Republic (CDR); establishment of media platforms as campaign mediums against Tutsi e.g. Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) and Kangura newspaper. Several cables detailing evidence of the planning of the genocide were sent to the United Nations by General Romeo Dallaire, Canadian Commander of the UN Peacekeeping force, MINUAR. Warnings were equally given by the leadership of Rwanda Patriotic Front which in October 1990 launched a liberation struggle aimed at bringing normalcy to a country that at the time was not only source of stateless people for the region and beyond but was also a notorious representation of poverty, ignorance, discrimination and hate for its own citizens.

The 1994 Genocide against Tutsi was and remains a failure of unimaginable proportion for the International Community considering the early warnings that never realized the purpose for which they were given. Unfortunately, we still see some of the genocide fugitives freely roaming the globe. Disturbingly too, these remnants of the genocidal force organized under the so-called Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) continue with impunity to ferment ethnic hatred and propagation of the same genocide ideology in Eastern DRC. Owing to hate speeches and wanton ethnic killings by the genocidal force, Rwandophone Congolese have been made perpetual refugees of whom Rwanda is now hosting close to eighty thousand with tens of thousands others in other neighbouring countries and beyond. Rwandese have suffered from statelessness, hate and discrimination before, it hurts and is dehumanizing. It is worth noting that the FDLR is a United Nations listed terrorist Group whose genocide threat principally targets Rwanda thus terror attacks like the one suffered Kinigi of Northern Rwanda in October 2019 which killed fourteen (14) people. The Genocide Convention was the first human rights treaty adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 9th December 1948. This international treaty criminalizes genocide and obligates State Parties to pursue the enforcement of prohibition as well as punishment of this crime. Going by the English saying ‘beaten once twice shy’, the International Community ought to help totally annihilate the FDLR both for its role in the 1994 genocide, genocide ideology it is perpetuating and terrorism it represents in the region.

Given the lessons learnt from past history, unity and reconciliation achieved over the years as well as sacrifices made for the steadfast economic development and protection of the sanctity of the nation, Rwandan residents are assured of Rwanda’s security and stability into the foreseeable future. The security of Rwandan residents is reassured by their Government’s steadfastness in ensuring sustainable security and stability into the foreseeable future. Rwandese can never rest on their laurels when her neighborhood is still replete with genocide ideology and remnants of genocide perpetrators that brought the country on its knees in 1994.

Meanwhile, we know how much a prerequisite peace and security are for the full realization of any country’s full potential. Informed by Rwanda’s history and related urge for durable peace, leadership has led way in ensuring the country’s effective contribution to global peace through UN Peacekeeping and bilateral deployments such as in Mozambique and the Central African Republic. Relatedly, as a Rwandan Diplomat in Sudan, I am encouraged by ongoing Intra-Sudanese dialogue which aim at amicably and sustainably resolving current political impasse thus unlocking the full realization of Sudan’s enormous economic potential.

In the meantime, after successfully stopping the Genocide, a Government of National Unity (GoNU) comprised of both RPF officials and officials from the era of the former regime with no known role in the genocide was formed.
Based on the same principle, security forces were integrated to build a new National Army, National Police and other security services. A broad-based consultative dialogue that lasted a year was held between 1998 and 1999 aimed at forging a common ground for building the Rwanda we want and a future we pride in as a united people with a common destiny guaranteeing safety, dignity and prosperity without discrimination. As example, it is against this background that Consensual democracy was chosen against confrontational democracy. Similarly, power-sharing provided under the Constitution of 2003 as revised in 2015 is rooted in the spirit of this dialogue. Premised on the internal context and challenges of the day, relevant policies and institutions were established, home grown solutions initiated and pertinent laws enacted. It is against this background that as example, a whole Ministry dedicated to National Unity & Civic Engagement (MINUBUMWE) was established and law no: 18/2008 for punishment of the crime of genocide ideology and divisionism was enacted. Relatedly, as example Gacaca justice system was initiated and implemented from 2002 to 2012 as a home grown solution to deliver restorative justice and help fight genocide related impunity.

Twenty-nine years after the genocide, we can never pay sufficient tribute and are forever indebted for the selfless act of bravely and sacrifice that helped stop the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. Many of the RPF young men and women paid their ultimate price during the campaign against Genocide – we revere them and will forever pay our deepest respect to them. We are forever thankful to the leadership under President Paul Kagame that since liberation of the country has steered way in rebuilding the Rwandan social fabric as well as helped secure and stabilize the country. From launch of satellites into space, other impressive milestones since liberation abound including: building diplomatic relations that crossover the colonial divide of language-phones; economic transformation that benefits all without discrimination; building of modern infrastructure built in various sectors including in communication, health, education, tourism and transport. Attesting to this transformation as example is Rwanda’s rise to the top ten African countries in the Global Soft Power Index ranking (Brand Finance, 2023). Relatedly, a pivotal statistic that speaks to Rwanda’s transformative journey is life expectancy which was a meager 29.9 years in 1990 and has since skyrocketed to 69.69 years (World Health Organization, 2022). Indeed, the country’s rise from ashes with well elaborated and executed people-centered policies that are delivering public goods and services to all without discrimination is a source of pride and dignity for Rwandans a s well as a true representation of the best of humankind.

Moving into the future, Rwandese are steadfastly working hard not only to protect the gains of the yesteryears but also to make faster and smarter progress towards the fullest realization of all aspirations encapsulated in the country’s economic blueprint, Vision 2050. Rwandans are working hard at achieving more and are assured of sustained peace and security into the future by the steadfastness and urgency with which leadership has prioritized reconstruction of national unity, provision of public goods to all Rwandese without discrimination as well as the urge with which Rwandan youths are diligently being prepared and are involved in all governance matters of national importance while understudying leadership and raison d’etre for all pertinent national policies and decisions.

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