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Kwibuka25: Preserving memory and upholding humanity

The opening remarks emphasized the importance of an annual commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda as a way to continue the fight against genocide ideology, denial and impunity and to ensure these events never occur again, not just in Africa but globally.

News

27 March 2019

On 25 March, the Embassy of the Republic of Rwanda in Ethiopia and Permanent Mission to the AU and UNECA organized a symposium on the 25th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda under the theme “Preserving Memory-Upholding Humanity”. The event, jointly organized by IPSS and the African Union Commission (AUC), took place at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa.

 

The speakers included Mr. Nurudeen Aziz,  Operational Planning Chief, United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU);  Dr. Khabele Matlosa, Director of the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) at the AU; a representative of the Ethiopian government; H.E. Hope Tumukunde Gasatura, Ambassador of Rwanda in Ethiopia; Mr. Tom Ndahiro, Advisor and Researcher with the Inter-Displinary Genocide Studies Centre; Dr. Solomon Dersso, Commissioner, African Commision on Human and Peoples’ Rights; Dr. Usta Kaitesi, CEO of the Rwanda Governance Board; and Dr. Yonas Adeto, Associate Academic Director at IPSS. The moderators of the two panel sessions were Ms. Michelle Ndiaye, Director of the Africa Peace and Security Programme and Head of Tana Forum Secretariat at IPSS; and Ms. Koat Aleer, Project Officer at AU DPA.

 

The opening remarks emphasized the importance of an annual commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda as a way to continue the fight against genocide ideology, denial and impunity and to ensure these events never occur again, not just in Africa but globally. In observance of the atrocities committed during the 1994 Genocide that claimed over 1 million lives, the AU and the UN designated 7th April as an international day of commemoration. It was highlighted that dialogues of this nature ought to occur regularly for continuous awareness to younger generations and the international community on the value of life and humanity dignity.

 

The symposium touched on the following reflections:

  • How do we make sure that the transitional justice process of preserving the memory of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda includes the healing of the peoples' hearts?
  • If the perpetrators of the genocide had won the war, what would have happened? Would we be talking about it?
  • As Africans today, were we aware of the situation before 6th April 1994? If we knew, what did we plan to do about it and why was it not done?

 

The first panel discussion focused on cooperation and responsibility in fighting impunity and genocide denial as a way to preserve the memory of the lives lost during the genocide. It was highlighted during the session that the only way to preserve memory and fight impunity and genocide denial is through defining what constitutes genocide as well as understanding the history of events that led to the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. During the series of genocides against the Tutsis in 1959 and 1964, denial by both the government and the international community laid the ground for the 1994 atrocities.

 

Genocide denial can take shape in many forms. These include: destroying evidence, changing nomenclature to diminish the magnitude of the atrocity, destroying evidence of genocide, attacking whistleblowers, denying facts and blaming victims for their victimization. Hence, vigilance in prevention is encouraged, such as through the effective implementation of normative frameworks like the AU Action Plan of the African Human and Peoples Rights Decade 2017-2028. It was recommmended that Member States implement structures to promote and protect human rights and adopt laws to fight against genocide. Cooperation both at regional and international levels to fight genocidal denial is critical to bringing perpetrators to account.

 

The second panel discussed upholding the responsibility in rebuilding communities and shared human values particularly with the role of youth in societal transformation. It was highlighted that the support to rebuild Rwanda today has been possible due to citizenry resilience and the inclusive mechanisms and initiatives undertaken by the Government of Rwanda. These comprised of: a constitution; social-economic policies; efforts ensuring effective government institutions; utilisation of public resources; citizen inclusion and civic education.

 

Participants mentioned that youth inclusion has been part and parcel of the Rwandan transitional justice to uphold their destiny and be pursuers of harmony within their society. It was also emphasized that documentation of evidence coupled with archiving of genocide evidence should be prioritized at national, regional and international levels for effective memorialization.

 

The experience of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda has been and will remain a key point of reflection globally in the fight against genocide. More so, an appeal was made to African Member States to strengthen national human rights institutions and put in place requisite legislation to fight against hate speech. International cooperation at regional and international levels was also encouraged for shared accountability and responsibility in upholding human values reflected in international laws.

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