To mark Kwibuka25, the 25th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, The Rwanda High Commission in London held a commemoration event on the 11th April 2019 in the heart of London attended by 600 guests in the heart of London including the Lord Mayor of Westminster, UK Government Officials, Members of Parliament, Heads of Mission, government officials, friends of Rwanda and Rwandans living in the UK.
The High Commissioner for the Republic of Rwanda to the United Kingdom, H.E. Ms. Yamina Karitanyi, reminded guests that Genocide does not start with the killings, there are many preceding stages that victims are forced to endure, which include classification, dehumanisation and polarisation. The High Commissioner cautioned that “Denial, when left unchallenged, is a threat to humanity’s collective conscience, and serves as the ultimate offense to the memory of the victims”
In a week that saw an Urgent Questions session in the UK Parliament on the issue of extradition of genocide suspects living in the UK raised by the Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell and over a dozen Members of Parliament asking the Minister for the Home Office why the UK Government is not taking the necessary action, the High Commissioner called on leaders to “take responsibility” and to respond, adding that “Rwanda can only win this fight by having more partners willing to walk this journey with us.”
Investigative Journalist and author Linda Melvern cautioned guests that: “Denial denies the dignity of victims that we mourn today, and mocks those that survived.” Speaking on behalf of the UK Government, the Right Honourable Lord Bates shared that the atrocities of the past must not define Rwanda. The Minister of State commended the values of tolerance and unity that have spurred Rwanda’s healing and transformation calling them “a model for the world”, adding that the people of the United Kingdom stand with Rwanda.
In a very emotional testimony, Marie-Rose Rurangirwa, a Genocide survivor, told guests that her horrific memories of 25 years ago “are still vivid”, and urged the distinguished guests in their respective positions of influence and power, to educate the world to ensure that what happened in Rwanda 25 years ago does not repeat itself in Rwanda or anywhere else in the world.
Speaking on behalf of the Scottish Government at Kwibuka25 in Musselburgh, Scotland this past weekend, the Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development, Hon. Ben Macpherson, extend the people of Scotland’s thoughts to the Rwandan-Scots, Rwandan diaspora in Scotland and Rwandans all across the world at this time of commemoration, and assured of Scotland’s “continued commitment to build on [the] existing partnership with Rwanda”. Dr Callum Henderson, Honorary Consul for Rwanda in Scotland called on all guests in attendance, and representatives of various countries to remember, renew and “work together and create the future we believe in”, a sentiment shared by Provost John McMillian of East Lothian Council who expressed the council’s pride in its relationship with Rwanda that dates back to 2014 and pledged “we shall remember, we shall unite and we shall renew the links we’ve built with Rwanda over the years.
The commemoration in Scotland, saw powerful contributions from genocide survivors and children of genocide survivors through testimonies, presentations and poetry. Marie-Claire Nyinawumuntu emphasised the importance of ‘Kwibuka’ calling it “a reminder of our shared humanity and our duty to care for each other”, adding that “sharing our storied does not make survivors weak, but rather it makes us stronger.”
Today’s Rwanda is building a prosperous future for generations to come, said the High Commissioner’s adding a message to the survivors that it is their “strength and dignity that motivate our nation”.
On the same day in Portsmouth, England, the first time a commemoration event had been held in that part of the country due to the small number of Rwandans living there, the Mayor of Portsmouth, Councillor Lee Mason, MP for Portsmouth, Hon Stephen James Morgan, and council officials and authorities including the local Police expressed their solidarity with the people of Rwanda and their amazement at Rwanda’s positive journey and transformation in the last 25 years. Mr John Binama, chair for the National Association of Rwandan Communities in the UK, conveyed a request to authorities of Portsmouth to join the fight against genocide denial, a threat that is on the rise. The Mayor of Portsmouth pledged to support the Rwandan community leadership in the UK moving forward.
A focus of Kwibuka25 activities in the UK, which started in March, is educating young minds and encourage the UK public to take lessons from Rwanda and apply them in their daily lives, challenging discrimination and division, and calling on leaders to take responsibility and action. On the 27th March 2019, High Commissioner Yamina Karitanyi spoke at the ‘Rwanda Conference’ held at Jack Hunt school in Peterborough, England, entitled “Rwanda – A Modern Miracle & a Way Forward”. The conference aimed to educate sixth-form students and staff on Rwanda’s story, giving them a real understanding of the immediate effects of Genocide on society, how Rwanda recovered and lessons that can be drawn from it. Other speakers at the conference included Jonathan Salt, Eric Murangwa MBE, Linda Melvern and David Brown of Aegis Trust.
Kwibuka25 will continue to be marked in the UK and Ireland with a conference at the Houses of Parliament and further events in London, Brighton, Nottingham, Plymouth and Dublin.