Twenty-four years ago, evil visited Rwanda when the then government executed a Genocide against Tutsis, part of its citizens it was supposed to protect.
To be exact, it was on the evening of April 6, 1994 when the “final solution” as Col Théoneste Bagosora, one of the architects of the genocide referred to it during the Arusha Peace Process.
For 100 days, over a million innocent men, women, children and the elderly were hunted down and butchered in degrading conditions not because they had done anything wrong but because of who they were; how they were born.
And Tutsis were slaughtered, not because the world hadn’t said never again to genocide after the holocaust in 1945 or because world powers didn’t know about the plan prior to the sordid, but, as researchers have since discovered, due to “lack of political will” and the “periphery” of Rwandans to powerful capitals.
And, of course, as research has shown, genocide, which, as Raphael Lamkin wrote in 1944, is a crime, which had started much earlier; in the pogroms of 1959 and subsequent years.
The evening of April 6 is the date when the crime the world had promised would never happen again started on a national scale. The following morning, our land was filled with innocent blood.
This date has since been marked as the day commencing remembering our departed. To remember isn’t only to honour the memory of victims who died at the hands of evil men and women or is it only to reaffirm their humanity. It’s also to recommit to the spirit of never again genocide.
This also means committing to fight and uproot the ideology of genocide along with it its denials while rendering an uplifting hand to survivors.
In practice, this means recognising that despite being a crime of crimes its proponents still abound as are some of its penetrators whom the government and all people of goodwill should continue to track and bring to justice.
For it’s through justice and unapologetic fight against the ideology of genocide that never again acquires practical meaning. Without this, impunity gets a front seat.
This is even more so, bearing in mind that the genocide against Tutsis wasn’t ended; it was stopped.
It’s therefore time to pay tribute to the heroes, the living and the departed who stopped this heinous crime.
That said, what has the last 24 years taught us about human beings and the promise of never again?
Broadly, the past 24 years have taught us a lot about the human spirit. First, if the past 24 years have taught us anything, it’s that there is nothing that determined men and women united by a vision; a good vision can fail to achieve.
We learn this both from the fact that after the genocide Rwanda wasn’t only predicted to fail, but was also seen as inconsequential in regional and world affairs.
Today the country isn’t only one of the most secure in the region but is also contributing to peace elsewhere through its peacekeeping missions.
Second, we also learnt that while evil resides in men and women, good and resilience also resides in men and women; and that, for the latter to triumph, men and women have to make it a purpose that’s purposively pursued daily; it’s not self-fulfilling.
Third, we also learnt, at a cost, that stopping and defeating evil like genocide isn’t self-executing or achieved through declarations; it is achieved by men and women who make it their objective and willing to pay the ultimate price.
That’s why, to remember is also to pay tribute to gallant men and women who stopped the genocide and still keep guard daily to ensure it never recurs.
Fourth, we have also learnt that because genocide is dependent on an ideology—to destroy, in whole or in part a people, it must be destroyed using a counterpoint ideology.
Fifth, we also relearnt that to secure tomorrow, we must inculcate the values of love, patriotism, honesty, dignity, heroism and being our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers into our children.
For children who were only five years in 1994 are today 29 years while those who were 10 are today 34; many of them are not only today’s leaders; teachers, nurses, police officers, soldiers, lawyers and journalists but also guardians of never again.
Moving forward then, let all people of goodwill commit to always remember victims of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, not only as a sign of love but also as a reminder that evil is always defeated by good men and women purposively working together.
Christopher Kayumba, PhD. Senior Lecturer, School of Journalism and Communication, UR; Lead consultant, MGC Consult International Ltd. E-mail: [email protected]; twitter account: @Ckayumba Website:www.mgcconsult.com