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Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame gives a speech at the Kwibuka30 National Remembrance Ceremony at BK Arena in Kigali, Rwanda on APRIL 7, 2024. PHOTO | Rwanda Government Flickr

Rwanda has been marking 30 years since the end of genocide, one of the bleakest moments in the country’s history. But it seems the war on the battle field only transited to narratives of which Kigali says it is still fighting.

Some of these narratives have also [punctuated] Rwanda’s relationships abroad with some countries praised and blamed in equal measure for having a hand in it.

In a speech marking Kwibuka 30, Rwandan President Paul Kagame acknowledged most of the neighbours for helping one way or another to rescue Rwandans trapped in a mass murder spree.

“For example, Uganda, which carried the burden of Rwanda’s internal problems for so many years and was even blamed for that. The leadership and the people of Ethiopia and Eritrea helped us in starting to rebuild at that time,” he said, specifically referring to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who served as a peacekeeper in Rwanda.

Read: A rebuilt Rwanda, three decades later

Kenya, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo “hosted large numbers of Rwandan refugees, and gave them a home,” he said. Tanzania too helped including in mediating dialogue sessions. Congo-Brazzaville, and South Africa, as well, supported, he said.

 

But some of these countries have since become Rwanda’s unfriendly states. And although their tensions are more recent political events, it can still be traced back to the 1994 events.

Kagame spoke of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s alleged posturing with those who committed the crimes.

“When the genocidal forces fled to Zaire, now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, in July 1994, with the support of their external backers, they vowed to reorganise and return to complete the genocide. Remnants of those forces are still in eastern Congo today, where they enjoy state support, in full view of the United Nations peacekeepers. Their objectives have not changed, and the only reason this group, today known as FDLR, has not been disbanded, is because their continued existence serves some unspoken interest.”

For Rwanda, the narrative about the genocide should be clear: Tutsis were slaughtered in attempted extermination and he and other patriotic citizens grouped to rescue the country.

Not everyone agrees with that narrative and some countries battle the figure of the dead, and the ethnic composition.

US President Joe Biden, for example, in his message on Kwibuka 30, said a diverse number of people were murdered.

“Most were ethnic Tutsis; some were Hutus and Twa people. It was a methodical mass extermination, turning neighbour against neighbour, and decades later, its repercussions are still felt across Rwanda and around the world,” Biden said on April 6, referring to the three ethnic groups in Rwanda at the time.

Read: Rwanda genocide victims still being found 30 years on

“We honour the victims who died senselessly and the survivors who courageously rebuilt their lives. And we commend all Rwandans who have contributed to reconciliation and justice efforts, striving to help their nation bind its wounds, heal its trauma, and build a foundation of peace and unity.”

Kigali says nations that remain intentionally vague about victims of the genocide perpetuate some form of denial which Kagame argues is a crime in itself.

It was not until 2003 that the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to commemorate the Rwandan Genocide as a UN day. Kigali still battled to have it referred to as Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda. That came in January 2018 after a pivotal argument by then Rwandan Permanent Representative to the UN Valentine Rugwabiza.

“Historical accuracy and words are vital while referring to the genocide,” she said then.

“The tactics of genocide denial and revisionism are well-known and documented. Some people, mostly those who were involved by action or omission, promote the theory of double genocide in the futile belief that such suggestion might divert their own responsibility, she said.

Although the resolution passed without a vote, Washington still argued in 2018 that changing the official title of the day to refer to the Tutsi “does not fully capture the magnitude of the genocide and of the violence committed against other groups.”

On Tuesday, Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Kenya Martin Ngoga told an audience that the tragic genocide it faced in 1994 should serve as a powerful reminder to confront hatred, discrimination, and division wherever it may arise.

“Genocide is not an isolated event but a consequence of a society that has allowed prejudice and intolerance to take root,” he told an audience of diplomats, Rwandan diaspora, and government officials in Nairobi at a ceremony to mark 30 years of Genocide against the Tutsi.

Read: Rwandan envoy: Genocide was product of ignored intolerance

Yet Rwanda feels there is still something simmering in the background which could bring future danger.

In fact, Kagame’s push to defeat genocidaires was not free from excesses, only that the impression given was that it was meted on those who had committed mass murders and forcible transfer of populations that needed rescue.

One of the stories Kagame gave was that of his sister named Florence. She worked for the United Nations Development Programme in Kigali. When the Hutu perpetrators targeted civilians, she remained holed up in her house near a military barracks. Kagame said she was later betrayed by her Rwandan colleague who outed her hideout.

“He (Rwandan) continued his career with the United Nations for many years, even after evidence implicating him emerged. He is still a free man, now living in France,” he told the audience in Kigali last week.

Rwanda and France had been in some damaged relations until recently. But still old wounds about how France propped up the Hutu killers and still gave them refuge remain unhealed. On April 7, French President Emmanuel Macron walked back his earlier promise to admit fault when his country and other Western allies dragged feet to respond.

At least these days, Rwanda and France have healed some of their relationship that saw Rwanda get back into the Organisation of Francophone States after reopening diplomatic ties with Paris.

Still, Kigali has a feeling that perpetrators of 1994 genocide are getting platforms abroad to revise the history.

Ngoga said Rwanda’s allies and the international community in general should continue fighting perpetrators including bring to justice the perpetrators of 1994 atrocities.

“Genocide deniers, including a number of academics, continue to perpetuate negations by conveniently ignoring the judgements of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. Negationism can in no way be accepted as a tolerable opinion or a legitimate right. Genocide denial is a crime, and therefore must be fought by all means,” he underscored, referring to the tribunal that tried some of the suspects before folding in 2016, and was based in Arusha.

It indicted some 96 people directly involved in the planning, funding or execution of the genocide although many other suspects were tried in local Gacaca courts in Rwanda.

“Perpetrators and deniers of the Genocide against the Tutsi still continue to move freely in many parts of the world, spreading hate ideology and misinformation on the facts surrounding the genocide against the Tutsi. By Aggrey Mutambo, The East African

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