“Rwandan lives were just pawns in geopolitical games”
Rwanda marks 27th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi
To release findings on the French involvement in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi
President Paul Kagame says lies and falsehoods about his country motivated by petty resentments do not define the country or determine its fate.
Kagame was speaking at a ceremony to mark the 27th Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi attended by about 500 Rwandans and friends of Rwanda at the Kigali Arena. Kagame observed that often, there have been campaigns built on lies driven by disgraced former government officials and motivated by petty resentment.
The campaigns, he noted, are often geared at presenting falsehoods as facts, consequently making victims come off as the villains. With that, acts of terrorism are portrayed as principled expressions of opposition and dissent, while Rwanda’s response is singled out for criticism. “My friends, you can tell any lie about me; you are free to do so. You can pile up tons of lies; it won’t change me, absolutely not. It won’t change this country to be what you want it to be. It doesn’t matter how many lies. That I can promise you,” he said.
The lies and falsehoods take multiple shapes and forms including publications by well-known publishers, reports by renowned organisations, misrepresentation of facts and statements by leaders among others.
Kagame noted that in some instances, misrepresentation of facts about the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi have been evident in terminology. Some, he said, are hesitant to term it rightfully as the Genocide against the Tutsi in an attempt to preserve their own narratives or avoid responsibility.
“Despite a unanimous resolution by the United Nations General Assembly, there are still one or two countries which stubbornly refuse to use the phrase Genocide against the Tutsi. In the whole of the General Assembly they have that understanding, except one or two, just as they resisted using the word genocide in 1994. Specialists and human rights groups remain silent about the obvious dangers, reluctant to say anything that might be seen to vindicate the Rwandan government,” he said.
The cynicism and hypocrisy, Kagame observed, reflected in such bigoted narratives is breath-taking. As a result of the lies, genocide suspects are granted safe haven in countries around the world while extradition requests are denied. He added that it has also seen an increase in genocide denial and revisionism, which could take years to reverse.
Kagame welcomed a report by a commission of historians, which was commissioned by the French government. It provides insights into official archives about France’s role in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which had remained secret. He welcomed the report terming it as an important step toward a common understanding of the events as well as a desire by the French leadership to engage on the basis of actual events. “The report shows that President Mitterrand and his closest advisers knew that a genocide against Tutsi was being planned by their allies in Rwanda,” he said, adding that despite that knowledge, President Mitterrand decided to continue supporting them because he believed this was necessary for France’s geopolitical position.
“Rwandan lives were just pawns in geopolitical games,” Kagame said, revealing that in the third week of April, Rwanda will release its findings on the French involvement in the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, noting that the findings were in line with the Duclert report.
“The important thing is to continue working together to document the truth. This is the truth. The decades-long effort by certain French officials to cover up their responsibilities has caused significant damage,” he said.
However, despite the odds, Kagame said that Rwanda will not be held back and will continue to live her truth and work with partners and friends. “For us in Rwanda, we are not being held back. We move forward. There is no difference so big that a hand extended in good faith will not be reciprocated. That is how we Rwandans are, who our history has made us,” he said.
He commended Rwandans for remaining resilient and dedicated to the task of unity and reconciliation as well as friends of the country some who have stood with the country over the years. “Rwandans are resilient, and we are full of purpose and hope. The immensity of what has been achieved is almost miraculous. The results are attested to by Rwandans, and indeed indisputable. First, there are the tangible signs, things that we can see and feel,” Kagame said.
“New buildings and roads. Better hospitals and health centres. Water and electricity services, where they never existed before. Visitors flocking to see Rwanda’s unique wildlife and enjoy our hospitality. But the intangible transformations which have taken place in the hearts and minds of our people are even more important. They allow progress to be sustained from generation to generation.”
He added: “The Rwandans of today have gained a lot, which means we have something precious to defend. This requires constant vigilance, along with a commitment to introspection and honesty. Decades, even centuries of progress, can be wiped away in the blink of an eye. We have seen examples in different societies around the world, no matter how advanced. I know for certain that Rwandans will always be ready to protect what we have built, without hesitation or apology. Like every country, Rwanda has the right to use all legitimate and lawful means to counter attacks on our people — no question about it — and on the principles of our Constitution.”
New Times/Own correspondent