Fellow Rwandan and Friends of Rwanda,
Today is 7th April. On this day, we join millions of Rwandan and Friends of Rwanda at home and beyond, to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi, perpetrated by the former genocidal regime of the late Habyarimana, the ex-FAR and its allied Interahamwe militias. We especially salute the survivors of this genocide, accepted as one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century.
Today is not just the start of the Genocide Week; it is also a week to remember and to reflect on the gruesome nature of the crimes committed against totally innocent people. This week also marks two and half months Journey of the Kwibuka (Remembrance) Flame, that has toured over 10,169 square miles across the land of 1000 hills, to symbolise a “Torch” of a Bright Future of Unity and National Reconciliation, that has been ushered throughout Rwanda following many years of some of the most brutal and gruesome atrocities committed by man against fellow man that the world has ever witnessed.
Fellow Rwandan and Friends of Rwanda, the 7th of April, is the start of an Extraordinary Annual Week during which we all gather together to commemorate and to give respect to our dear brethren and kinsmen and women, who perished in episodes of grotesque inhumanity meted out sometimes for no greater a reason than the physical appearance of the victims. We shall always remember and show our respect to the estimated one million innocent Tutsis who were brutally slaughtered en mass in 1994. The numerous Memorial sites that litter the country, like The Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi, where over 250,000 innocent souls were laid to rest, are living and indelible proof and permanent reminders of the extent of inhumanity that man can inflict on fellow man if the ideology and policy of ethnic hatred, bigotry, prejudice and intolerance is allowed to prevail as a means of attaining political objectives.
Fellow Rwandan and Friends of Rwanda, it is hard to find any suitable word to describe, the 100-days of death, violence and destruction that descended on our people in 1994. From 7th April to 18th July 1994, over 1,000,050 Tutsi were murdered. 700.000 women were raped or infected with HIV, 500,000 were widowed, as were 300,000 orphans and 45,000 children were fathered as result of rape, while hundreds of thousands of fellow Rwandan were left permanently disabled or traumatised. The genocide (slaughter) lasted 100 days - in homes, villages, inside churches, hospitals, schools and on manned road blocks throughout the country. Using mass media such as radios and news print to propagate their agenda of ethnic hatred, the leaders of the genocide induced large numbers of soldiers, militias and villagers into a feeling of mass hysteria where horrific killings, even of neighbours and friends became possible. This has in turn created its own legacy in implementing the reconciliation and re-integration process because in many cases the victims personally know their attackers.
This is why, in the month of April of each year, all Rwandan and Friends of Rwanda, assemble in different genocide memorial sites and in churches to observe the Seven Days of Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi.
It is also a week that is directed to re-dedicate our resolve to stand firm on our feet, and shoulder to shoulder to console and to offer our unwavering solidarity and support to the survivors of the 1994 Genocide.
Fellow Rwandan and Friends of Rwanda, although genocide against the Tutsi was eventually stopped, and politics of hate and ethnic ideology dismantled, we are deeply saddened that crimes against humanity and, especially genocide are still being perpetrated in many countries in the world. Events in Africa and elsewhere in the world are just sad reminders of the brutal world we live in. We therefore take this occasion of the Remembrance of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi to appeal to you, Fellow Rwandan and Friends of Rwanda, to offer your unreserved prayers to the people of C.A.R, Syria, Libya, Mali and other countries that experiencing the horrifying experiences that we the people of Rwanda passed through.
We believe that the absence of effective collective response from the international community in relation to the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi and as well as the absence of an effective enforcement machinery to put on trial perpetrators of genocide may have emboldened the perpetrators of these terrible events to think that they too would enjoy immunity and secondly that the international community would just stand aside and watch while thousands of innocent civilians are massacred. That is why we think the international community should learn a lesson from the Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi by erecting an effective investigatory, prosecutory and enforcement capability and capacity so that perpetrators of genocide are made to understand that they will not enjoy any immunity from punishment for their violent conduct.
To this extent, many foreign countries including France have started to bring to justice those responsible for these crimes. We hope this should serve as clear warning, that no stone will be left unturned until the last genocidaires is brought to justice. The Nazi Concentration Camp Guard, John Demjanjuk, the man who was nicknamed “Ivan the Terrible”, was one of the Nazi fugitives responsible for the Holocaust against Jews, and was brought to justice in his 90s. There is no doubt and it is our implacable hope that those responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi will have no safe haven or hiding place anywhere in the world and the entire international community will join hands together in renewed efforts to apprehend them and to bring them to justice.
Fellow Rwandan and Friends of Rwanda, today, my party the Rwanda People's Party / Ishyaka Ry'Abaturage and I personally wish to reiterate this; to the survivors of victims of genocide against the Tutsi, your relatives, friends and neighbours didn’t die in vain. We will always remember and honour their resilience and harrowing experience, for millions of years to come. Although they are gone in flesh, they live with us in spirit, and will do so forever, as their lasting unique and extraordinary legacy will continue to prevail in our minds and deeds for ever and ever. They became our serialised morning and evening prayers, we observe their presence every time we wake up, we feel their touch during our daily activities and we remember their moment of sorrows and tears before we go to bed.
Henceforth, Rwandan are the legitimate stake holders of this beautiful country of ours. Therefore history will judge us on wrong side of the road, and as an ultimately failures, if we ever, ever dare to forget the suffering, tears and horrifying experiences that our country and our people have gone through during Rwanda’s recent dark history. Rwanda belongs to you, and you belong to Rwanda, there can never be a Rwanda without Rwandan people nor Rwandan people without Rwanda. Thus, we remain committed to protect our land and all of our people, whether living inside or outside Rwanda.
Those who cowardly predict a new genocide against the people of Rwanda, to you we say you are clearly mistaken and seriously underestimate our resolve never to allow genocide to revisit our country again. Our resolve is “Never, Never Again”. Genocide is now firmly part of our history; it lives with us only so that we can learn lessons from it. It is therefore the duty of any Rwandan to ensure that we steer our country in a direction that will enable us to keep this resolve, for we need no foreigners to preach to us how to manage and govern our country for today and for the indeterminate future.
Fellow Rwandan and Friends of Rwanda, on this Extraordinary week to mark the 20th Anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi, I would like also to take this opportunity to register our Special Attribute to the resilient Rwandan women, those dearest mothers, wives, grandmothers, sisters, and daughters, many of whom were victims of sexual violence. Many of your bodies were ripped apart as result of gang rape, many of your dreams were shattered; you have borne the additional burden of seeing your husbands, children, family members etc., murdered in front of you and many of you were left to fight with HIV and AIDS and to raise children of rape, without having any ready-made explanations to the community or your own children who their real fathers really are.
Fellow Rwandan and Friends of Rwanda, there are others amongst us whose brevity was outstanding during the genocide. Though they were hacked with machete, tortured raped, and some mutilated, they have still found a reason to live to witness this day. They have not allowed the circumstances they went through during the genocide define their lives. They have shown that they are worth more than the miseries they go through. Though what you went through is hurting and to some the memories are still fresh, I want to let you know that you are our brave heroes too. I pray that the God who has given you courage, confidence, and a reason to continue living will enable you even more. You will forever remain in our history books as some of the bravest Rwandans who survived the experience.
I have every respect for these heroic women who have been victims of sexual violence but who again are subjected to ostracism, discrimination and prejudice because of their HIV status or AIDS condition. Some of you women have gathered the courage to live openly with the illness, and to challenge those sections of society that discriminate against you. By forgiving and allowing the re-integration of the perpetrators back into the community, sometimes living near them as neighbours, those who have inflicted so much harm and suffering on you in the first instance, you demonstrate indomitable courage in the face of adversity. By conquering fear, prejudice and rejection, you have given a more poignant meaning to the word “HOPE”. In your self-sacrifice, humility and lack of bitterness, you have made Rwanda a proud nation, a towering beacon of hope and aspiration for all those around the world living under the throes of human brutality or are recovering from the spiritual as well as human darkness that was imposed on them by tyrannical regimes or actors.
The most important lesson to draw from your resilience and strength, which the entire world can learn from is this that;
"It doesn't matter how deep you fall, what matters is how high you bounce back." (anon)
Therefore in conclusion, Fellow Rwandan and Friends of Rwanda, the saying above by an unknown preacher applies equally or even more to us as a people and as a nation. It is not the fact that we were brought down to our knees by killers and monsters that is important, the fact that we got up (or should get up) is the most important. Armed with this inspiration, Rwanda surely now has a solid foundation for unity and national reconciliation on which we can build a new Rwanda for all Rwandan.
I am proud to note that Rwanda as a nation and a people have shown positivity in how they rose after the 1994 fall.
Thank you. God bless you all.