24th Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi

24th Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi

To mark the 24th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, The Rwanda High Commission in London in collaboration with St. Marylebone Parish Church, hosted a commemoration service which was attended by 500 guests in the heart of London on Tuesday 10th April 2018.

In her address, the High Commissioner for the Republic of Rwanda to the United Kingdom, H.E. Ms. Yamina Karitanyi, reminded guests that “the international community failed to intervene”  even though all the signs were present for all to see and crimes of genocide had been committed in Rwanda for decades, well before 1994.  The High Commissioner called on all attendees to take on our role as citizens of the world seriously and “apply two key principles: 1. The responsibility to protect and 2. To fight genocide ideology and denial.

The High Commissioner expressed regret that 11 years on, a decision is still pending on 5 extradition cases of genocide suspects living in the UK,and stressed that “the United Kingdom, which is signatory to the Genocide Convention Law, should act and take appropriate action to allow the Law to take its course before it is too late for survivors to witness justice.” Her Excellency added a note of caution “for those set oninflicting emotional distress on Rwanda, our message is clear: We will not tire in using the law, and diplomacy, to fight genocide ideology.” The High Commissioner highlighted that Rwanda is not defined by its history and is on the path to a prosperous and bright future as it is now a “stable, secure and very much worth a visit”, having made the ‘Must-See in 2018’ travel list of all renowned travel publications and platforms.

Guest speaker, Dr. Michael Gray, Academic and Universities Director at Harrow School, pointed out that “misconceptions” were crudely presented by Western media at the time of the Genocide against the Tutsi and that they continue to be heard today, using the example of the New York Times headline of 9th April 1994 which read ‘Terror Convulses Rwandan Capital as Tribes Battle’. He also emphasised that what took place in Rwanda was “a pre-meditated and carefully orchestrated genocide against the Tutsi” that could and should have been stopped by the international community, adding that Rwanda has “rejected the politics of division, bitterness and hatred” and instead “embraced the values of unity, togetherness and harmony. Dr. Gray invited guests to commit to “remembering the past, uniting in the present and renewing our commitment to the future”

The Rector of St. Marylebone Parish, Revd. Canon Stephen Evans, said in his sermon that “24 years ago Rwanda experienced the most horrific of imaginable events” but that “the good that people knew to do, they did not.” The Reverend appealed to the congregation to not only commemorate but also “resolve that such things never happen again, recommit to keep building on the progress made in the years that have passed and to loving one another.”

Mrs Sophie Masereka, shared her strong testimony of survival and her moving journey of healing. She said that it took her “15 years to speak” of what happened to her, as she was “so scared to reveal who [she] was”, but she found strength in that many people needed to hear her story. Sophie now shares her story and testimony at schools across the UK, at various organisations and at Holocaust Memorial Day events. Guests also listened to a solemn poem recital by Ms. Daniela Musabi, composed by Malaika Uwamahoro, which paid tribute to the victims of the Genocide against the Tutsi. The service saw the act of commemoration, where the High Commissioner for Rwanda lit a candle shaped in the number ‘24’, and closed with a blessing delivered by the Rt. Revd. Jonathan Ruhumuliza and the Rt. Revd. Kenneth Barham.

The commemoration service was attended by Ambassadors and Commonwealth nations High Commissioners, UK Government officials, representatives of various NGOs and institutions, Friends of Rwanda and Rwandans from various boroughs in the UK.

High Commissioner Yamina Karitanyi speaking at the screening of ‘The Uncondemned’ in London, 9th April 2018

The previous evening, on the 9th April, the High Commission and members of the Rwandese Community in London attended the screening of the documentary film “The Uncondemned”, hosted by The Queen’s Commonwealth Trust and the Kinship of Kush, a new venture on a mission to empower Young Global Africans to influence the world. “The Uncondemned” tells the gripping and world-changing story of a group of young international lawyers and activists who fought to make rape a crime of war, and the #Rwandan women who came forward to testify and win justice where there had been none. Addressing the audience after the film, the Her Excellency Yamina Karitanyi said “Rape & genocide are not events – they don’t just happen and end. It stays with you. I am proud to belong to a country that has committed to fight this evil while sharing our experience to educate the world, such that this history doesn’t repeat itself.

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