Statement by H.E. Olivier Jean Patrick NDUHUNGIREHE,
Ambassador of Rwanda in Brussels,
at the 23rd commemoration of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi
ACP Secretariat, Brussels, 7 April 2017
Excellency M. Johnson WERU, Ambassador of Kenya, representing the Chair of the ACP Committee of Ambassadors;
Excellency Dr Patrick GOMES, Secretary General of the ACP;
Excellencies Ambassadors and representatives of diplomatic missions;
Madam Claire RUYUKI,
Dear compatriots, genocide survivors and friends of Rwanda,
1. Today, we are once again gathered to honour the lives of a million children, women and men, victims of the unspeakable: the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. On this 23rd commemoration, we give solace and dignity to the survivors who live with this profound enduring loss. We share in their sorrow and offer words of comfort which will provide strength and hope for them to continue on despite their grief.
2. We also pay tribute to the righteous among our nation, who demonstrated courage and sacrifice to save lives. We commend the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) and its then Commander, Major General Paul Kagame, who decided to fight evil and stopped the genocide in July 1994, while the UN peacekeeping mission on the ground and the international community as a whole were looking on.
3. But one man didn’t look on during the genocide. It’s Captain Mbaye Diagne. Son of Africa, born in the great nation of Senegal, peacekeeper in the United Nations Mission to Rwanda (UNAMIR), Captain Diagne is a hero. He understood, more than anyone else, what his true mission was. In the face of evil, he refused to be a bystander; he chose to become an upstander! He acted as a soldier, a human being, to save lives. He followed the instructions of his conscience against those from New York.
4. With no guns, no weapons, armed only with courage and sense of responsibility, Captain Diagne decided to conduct several missions, going through dozens of checkpoints held by armed militias, to save up to a thousand Rwandans during the Genocide against the Tutsi. He died in action as a hero and is now the pride of Senegal, Rwanda, Africa and the entire humanity.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen
5. On this day, let me thank the Group of States of Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) for the organization of this 23rd commemoration at the ACP Secretariat, pursuant to the decision of the 79th session of the ACP Council of Ministers, held in Gaborone, Botswana in May 2004. The Council of Ministers, while adopting this decision, wanted this organisation to express full support and solidarity to one of its member states, victim of a genocide. It was certainly not in the Council’s mind to go beyond its mandate and issue a court ruling or revisit existing ones. In June 2006 indeed, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), which was established by the UN Security Council, ruled that it was a “fact of common knowledge” that “there was a genocide in Rwanda against the Tutsi ethnic group”.
6. It is therefore difficult to understand why, despite that court ruling, followed by a formal recognition by the UN Security Council of a “genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi”, through its resolution 2150 (2014), the ACP Group of States still insists to removing, from all its official documents, any reference to the group against which genocide was committed.
7. We always talk, in this very room, about the need for political commitment and solidarity. Here is the time to demonstrate it! How can we expect political commitment without solidarity? How, as a country, can we feel that unity and solidarity, as enshrined in the Georgetown Agreement, if we have to argue at every commemoration over a legal qualification already established by a UN criminal tribunal? How did the “solidarity with Rwanda” expressed by the Gaborone’s Council of Ministers in 2004, moved into the revision of our painful history by the Committee of Ambassadors? If we refuse to name the victim of a crime, whatever it may be (rape, murder, assassination, genocide), can we say that our compassion and our solidarity to that victim is genuine? Those are some the questions that need absolutely to be addressed and resolved by the ACP Group of States, if it wants to live up to the core principles of our organization.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
8. The theme of this 23rd commemoration is made of three specific commitments: “Remember the genocide against the Tutsi – Fight genocide ideology – Build on our progress”.
9. Only the most depraved of humanity would disagree with the right to remember the victims. We remember, not because we enjoy reliving the horrors of the past, not because we want to deepen the sorrow of the present; we remember because it’s a duty, a duty to remember our loved ones, a duty to educate and a duty to preserve future generations.
10. Fighting genocide ideology is also a duty. The scourge of genocide denial, minimization and trivialization we are witnessing today, mainly in Europe and North America, has not only consequence of reviving the wounds of the survivors but also the consequence of jeopardizing the future of a healing society. Genocide denial is a pervasive ideology of poison that threatens to deliver many more deaths unless we resolve to combat it. And the best way to fight that evil is to start by ensuring that all genocide suspects living in our countries are held accountable, to use the correct ICTR qualification of this crime for educational purposes and to ensure that our legislations criminalize the denial of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi.
11. As we remember and fight genocide ideology, let’s also stand firm on our achievements and build on our progress. In 1994, the genocide against the Tutsi reduced Rwanda’s social fabric to ashes and our economy to shambles. But in the past 23 years, Rwanda has done more that reconstruction and peacebuilding. Under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, Rwanda has become a reference point for security and political stability, unity and reconciliation, economic transformation, tourism and protection of the environment, women empowerment, good governance and zero tolerance for corruption.
12. Based on our lessons learned from genocide, Rwanda has decided to promote peace and security not only at home but also abroad. Since 2004, the country contributes peacekeepers to UN and AU Missions (mainly Sudan – Darfur -, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Haiti – all ACP member states) and we are ranked today as the world 5th troops and police contributing country at the UN with more than 6,000 troops.
13. But Rwanda does more than contributing troops. Based on our experience and on the principle of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), Rwanda believes in “robust peacekeeping”, to save civilians in armed conflict. In May 2015, the Government of Rwanda organized, in Kigali, an international conference of troops and financial contributing countries, during which the “Kigali Principles on Protection of Civilians” were adopted. Those were 18 principles for peacekeepers, with a shared commitment of the effective protection of civilians during armed conflict. Forty countries have now signed on to those Principles and I call on all ACP member states to do the same.
14. To conclude, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, let’s hope that the community of humans will eventually learn lessons from the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in Rwanda and will be resolved to go beyond the convenient rhetoric of "Never again” by acting accordingly. Let’s stand firm on our achievements, let’s build on our progress and let’s keep alive the flame of memory and hope. Hope for a brighter future for younger generations in Rwanda and hope for unity, prosperity and solidarity among the ACP nations.
15. I thank you.