We are not looking for reparation for genocide victims, says Kagame

Friday April 7 2017

Pope Francis and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame

Pope Francis and Rwanda's President Paul Kagame at the Vatican on March 20, 2017. The Pontiff made statements that amounted to an apology over the Church's role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. PHOTO|AFP 


President Paul Kagame has put to rest the talk doing rounds that Rwanda is demanding compensation from the international community and the Roman Catholic Church for their failure to intervene during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

At a recent event to mark the 23rd anniversary of the genocide, President Kagame said that Rwanda is not looking for money or any form of compensation but is willing to listen to those ready to take responsibility for their actions and forge new relationships.

President Kagame alluded to "powerful countries" that were found to have played a role in the genocide but have failed to acknowledge their failures 23 years on, and still want to cause problems for Rwanda.

“There are those who haven’t apologised or even recognised that we are not asking for money. We don’t ask for money. There is no money to compensate the hundreds of thousands of our people who were killed during this genocide,” said President Kagame. “It is the truth that we are after; the truth that allows people to live their meaningful lives going forward,” he said.

A recent meeting between President Kagame and Pope Francis at the Vatican triggered the discussion around the need for compensation for genocide survivors and families of victims, with critics arguing that acknowledging failure and apologising is not enough.

There has been debate about whether a statement released by the Vatican amounts to an apology. Pope Francis however, admitted that the church failed in the 1994 Genocide.

President Kagame’s remarks come a few days after Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said that Kigali is satisfied with the outcome of the March 20 meeting between the Pope and the Rwandan leader.

“Those who decide that they want to change course and work with us are welcome, including those who recognise their failure and admit it to Rwanda and Rwandans,” said Ms Mushikiwabo.

The minister said that the "apology" from Vatican healed "deep wounds" of a difficult past created by the church in Rwanda, dating back to the colonial era when it was involved in divisive politics.

“What is clear to this government is that out of that very important discussion between His Holiness and the President of the Republic of Rwanda was an element that is going to change the relationship between Rwanda and the Roman Catholic church,” she said.

The Rwandan minister said that Pope Francis took a bold step to acknowledge the church’s failings in Rwanda for the very first time, refuting claims that Kigali was quick to accept what appeared as an apology without pushing the church further over its wrongdoing.

“Rwanda is a country which is predominantly Roman Catholic, the fact that the Pope invited President Kagame over to the Vatican to discuss the longstanding issues marked an important milestone,” she said. “For us that was enough from the church; those who feel the apology was not sufficient have their own reasons."