Rwandans in six countries in West Africa have held an event to commemorate the 28th anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, with a call on all to commit to the fight against genocide ideology and its denial.
The commemorative event, held in Ghana’s capital – Accra, was organised by the High Commission of Rwanda in Ghana in partnership with the Rwandan Communities in Ghana, Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Togo.
It was held on the theme: ‘Remember, Unite and Renew’.
Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration of Rwanda, Dr. Vincent Biruta, were among high-level dignitaries who joined Rwandan residents in the West African countries to observe and commemorate the event in honour of the memory of loved ones killed in 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
The Deputy Minister of Tourism of Ghana – Mark Okraku Mantey, and Deputy Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Alfred Tuah-Yeboah, as well as senior government officials of Ghana, representatives of the Diplomatic Corps, the Rwandan Community and Friends of Rwanda, all participated in the commemoration.
Referred to as Kwibuka in Kinyarwanda, remembering the genocide against the Tutsi offers a platform to honour the over a million lives lost, and to accord them the dignity they were stripped of by the cold-hearted manner in which they were killed.
Dr. Vincent Biruta, who joined in the commemoration virtually, in a keynote address, said the commemoration period is a time to remember the innocent lives lost, comfort especially the survivors of genocide, and embrace more to the unity and healing of Rwanda.
“This places responsibility on all nations to preserve the memory of the victims by supporting the fight against genocide deniers, revisionist and those that trivialise genocide.
“This commemoration, remembrance and upholding of unity, determination of renewal and journey to recovery, Rwanda has been accompanied by many friends across the world. As we continue to heal as a nation, it is essential that we also continue to fight against the last stages of genocide which are denial, revisionism, distortion and trivialising the genocide against the Tutsi.
“To do this, we need the support of all our partners, to ensure that we preserve the memory of the victims in order to build a strong foundation for our country’s socio-economic development. It is our collective responsibility to highlight the negative efforts of divisionism and discriminatory ideologies, while at the same time promoting values of unity and reconciliation aimed at creating the brighter future that we aspire to,” he said.
Dr. Biruta said Rwanda has sought the support of other countries to open archives related to the genocide, with the goal of owning Rwanda’s history and preserving the memory of the victims, which are two important components of healing – unity and reconciliation.
He also indicated the need to end impunity and ensure that genocide perpetrators face justice.
To this end, Dr. Biruta said more than 900 indictments and arrest warrants have been issued in 33 countries for a number of individuals suspected to have participated in the genocide in Rwanda.
The minister also acknowledged with deep appreciation the role that Ghana played, through the Ghanaian contingent led by General (Rtd.) Henry Anyidoho, who had been part of the UN peacekeeping mission, in saving lives of innocent civilians when they chose to stay, as others left Rwanda at the greatest hour of need.
On her part, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey served a reminder that messages of ‘never again’ place a responsibility on the world to be vigilant and to insist on tolerance and lawful behaviour by all actors everywhere.
“That is why we must also remember the failure of the international community to act to stop the killing, and largely ignored the unfortunate development, shirking the responsibility to protect. Unfortunately, the world failed to learn from history and failed to remember that the world had said ‘Never again’ after the genocide had been perpetrated during the Second World War,” she said.
The High Commissioner of the Republic of Rwanda in Ghana, H.E. Dr. Aisa Kirabo Kacyira, re-echoed a message from the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, which enjoined Rwandans to reflect on the path that led the country to genocide and to ensure the lessons learnt from it are not wasted, and called for everyone to learn more about the genocide against the Tutsis and stand up for the truth.
A survivor of the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994, Mr. D’Artagnan Habintwari, in a moving testimony said: “Genocide is a threat, and genocide can happen in any country. We must together fight against its ideology and any form of discrimination to ensure it never happens again anywhere”.
A journalist and a genocide researcher, Mr. Tom Ndahiro also delivered a presentation on genocide denial, the complicity of global media, and Rwanda’s firm choice to prioritise unity and dignity of all.
The commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi is an important event in the calendar of the Republic of Rwanda, as it provides the platform to remember the lives lost, show solidarity with survivors, and unite to ensure such tragedy never happens again in Rwanda or elsewhere in Africa and beyond. The commemoration of 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda also provides an opportunity to learn about Rwanda’s story of reconciliation, nation building, among others.
Officially, the commemoration each year begins on the 7th of April – the day the genocide started in 1994 – and continues for 100 days to represent the period within which more than a million people were killed.
Since 2021, this commemorative event has been held in a hybrid format (physical and virtual), with many others following the ceremonies virtually via social media platforms of the High Commission of Rwanda in Ghana.