“Some say the rebirth of Rwanda is a miracle, but it is rather the result of the leadership and people’s commitment to shape Rwanda for Rwandans’ sake” – H.E. Yamina Karitanyi.
On the occasion of the 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda (Kwibuka23), The Rwanda High Commission in London in collaboration with St. Marylebone Parish Church of England hosted a commemoration service which was attended by over 400 people in the heart of London.
In her address, the High Commissioner for the Republic of Rwanda to the United Kingdom, H.E. Ms. Yamina Karitanyi, reminded guests of the International community’s indifference during Rwanda’s darkest hour: “we have to remember that the Genocide was not spontaneous. It was well planned, well communicated, and not even kept a secret. The perpetrators had sufficient resources to produce a well-executed killing machine, as the International Community watched with diminishing interest.” The High Commissioner called on all attendees to safeguard historical clarity and not allow those who trivialise genocide or who are busy attempting to re-write the history of Rwanda to remain unchallenged, and “for the sake of humanity, let us not remain indifferent.”
The High Commissioner expressed regret that despite the Rwandan Government’s efforts, a decision is still pending on 5 extradition cases of genocide suspects in the UK 10 years on, and she warned that there are now reports of other Genocide suspects moving to the UK from other European countries because they have determined that once in the UK, their eventual extradition, or trial in the UK, will be difficult and even if approved, would prove to be a lengthy process. The High Commissioner also thanked the countries that have cooperated with Rwanda’s Judiciary in extraditing, deporting, or putting perpetrators on trial, which include the USA, Canada, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands. These countries’ judicial cooperation with Rwanda in pursuing genocide fugitives is recognition that Rwanda is equipped to provide justice.
Stating the judicial reforms that have taken place in Rwanda, including the abolition of the Death Penalty since 2007, the amendments to the Genocide Law and the existence of Gacaca (community courts), the High Commissioner illustrated why, at times, Rwandans wonder why perpetrators of the Genocide against the Tutsi are not treated with the same concern as terrorists, adding that “to Genocide Survivors, this is justice denied”.
H.E. Karitanyi shared that as Rwanda continues dealing with the consequences of its past, the Spirit of Rwanda never succumbed and has carried the nation to new heights. That spirit gifted us with a new dawn, a Rwanda committed to keeping all its children safe, ensuring inclusiveness, prioritising human and social development, and working overtime to reach middle income status by the year 2020. “Some say the rebirth of Rwanda is a miracle, but it is rather the result of the leadership and people’s commitment to shape Rwanda for Rwandans’ sake”, she concluded.
The High Commissioner closed with a quote by Erin Majors: “A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle”, thanking the guests in attendance as their presence “lights a candle”, their contribution to peace and justice “makes a difference” and that their friendship “makes it all bearable, and keeps that Rwanda spirit alive.”
UK Special Envoy for Post-Holocaust Issues, The Right Honourable Sir Eric Pickles, reiterated the fact that Genocide has various stages but does not culminate in execution, but rather in denial. “Those who commit genocide do not only want to wipe a race off the face of the earth, they want them [that race] to be forgotten”, added Sir Eric Pickles. The Envoy praised Rwanda’s resilient spirit how he was “struck by the desire of a population to work together and rebuild”, during his visit to Rwanda in October 2016. “That is why Rwanda is a symbol of hope and progress” he said.
Against this year’s Kwibuka23 theme to “Remember the Genocide Against the Tutsi, Fight Genocide Ideology, Build on our progress”, Mr. Andrew Wallis highlighted the fact that denial of the crime [of Genocide] worked hand in hand with the carrying out of murder. Mr. Wallis continued to explain that since 1994, Genocide Ideology and Denial has continued to grow “like a virus, changing forms and infecting many people across the world such as journalists, scholars or people that know very little about Rwanda. “We need to educate people to recognise this virus and move the conversation back to facts”, urged Mr. Wallis.
In his sermon, Revd. Canon Stephen Evans, Rector of St. Marylebone Parish, appealed to the congregation to unite, renew and build on the Rwanda’s progress since the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda: “As we seek to remember the events of 23years ago, and build on the progress that has been made in Rwanda, may we all unite in the resolve that such things must never happen again, and may we commit to renewing our resolve, that whatever our faith, we turn ourselves to compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, to ensure that God’s peace fills our lives, our countries and our world.”
Ms. Naila Kira, a Genocide survivor and member of the Rwandese community in the West Midlands, delivered her moving testimony, recounting the horrors that her and her family lived, her loss, and her resolve and commitment to speak out on the truth about Genocide and to fight its ideology.
The service included a traditional spiritual song by Rwandan Gospel singer, Olivier Nzaramba, entitled “Inanga”, a song of hope and praise that he and his siblings and friends would sing while in hiding to lift their spirits and to thank God for what their lives. Singers and poets Ishimwa Muhimanyi and Ineza Kerschamp performed a spoken word and song piece on life as a diaspora youth entitled “Home”, in which they melodically and with soothing tones reminisced on the fond memories from their home (their country) that they suddenly had to leave behind but long to return to. They captured the voice of diaspora youth who were very young or not yet born 23years ago, who’s lives were dramatically affected by the events of the Genocide Against the Tutsi, yet longing for one day “to go home” and looking forward to “the time when we can say ‘I told you, we would rise’”.
The act of commemoration (candle-lighting) was led by the Rector, the High Commissioner, and leaders
of Rwandese Communities in the UK. A candle shaped in the number of years of peace that followed the Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda (23) was lit from the Easter candle, and from this the candles held by members of the congregation were lit while the church choir sang. The Prayers and Blessings were led by the Revd. Dr. Malachie Munyaneza and the Rt. Revd. Jonathan Ruhumuliza.
The commemoration service was attended by representatives of the UK Government, members of the UK Houses of Parliament, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, Friends of Rwanda and Rwandans from various boroughs in the UK.
For more photos: Flickr.com/rwandahighcommissionuk