Notes on the official ceremony commemorating Kwibuka 27
On Wednesday, 7th of April 2021, Rwanda marked the twenty-seventh Kwibuka (Kwibuka which is a Kinyarwanda word; means ‘to remember. It describes the annual commemoration of the 1994 Genocide Against The Tutsi in Rwanda.) This year’s commemoration would be the second time it would be held during the covid pandemic which gripped the globe in 2020. The commemoration ceremony which commenced with the laying of wreaths at the Kigali Genocide Memorial in Gisozi in Kigali continued with the official ceremony which was held at the Kigali Arena in Remera, Kigali and had in attendance dignitaries ranging from government functionaries to diplomats and other invited guests.
In the opening remarks by Dr Jean-Damascène Bizimana, the Executive Secretary of National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide; he meticulously explained (in Kinyarwanda, the Rwandan language) the planning and execution of the 1994 Genocide Against The Tutsis. After his comprehensive breakdown cum speech, President Paul Kagame commenced his speech by buttressing the previous speaker’s speech by saying: “What Jean-Damascène Bizimana has just told us, those are facts. Facts of our history, facts about what happened, and the responsibilities thereof. For those deniers, if they have no shame, why should I have fear?”
In his words, he stated that “this may be the 27th time we have marked commemoration, but the occasion is never ordinary. There are always reminders of what is at stake. New mass graves are regularly discovered. Many perpetrators still roam free but we cannot allow the weight of our history to crush us. This is also the second Kwibuka during the Covid-19 pandemic. The physical distance only adds to the emotional burden on survivors, whose quiet strength has nourished our nation’s revival.”
The President of Rwanda credited Rwanda’s rebirth to the fact that the larger part of Rwandans wanted to build a better nation and overcome the manipulations by the bad leaders of the past. And given the chance to live better and see things differently, Rwandans seized it. Rwanda today is unquestionably more united and forward-looking than ever before. He further stated that Kwibuka challenges Rwandans to reflect on the context of the present moment, as well as the cumulative history that has led Rwandans here. In his words; “Rwanda may not yet be wealthy or fully healthy, and we have vulnerabilities and limitations, like any country. But we also know how to deal with our problems. 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.
On the issue of territorial legitimacy and lawful means, the President stated that like every country, Rwanda has the right to use all legitimate and lawful means to counter attacks on Rwandans and on the principles of the Constitution.
On fact-checking historical facts, the President of Rwanda opined that “when the storytellers happen to have been born in the right kind of place, their impartiality and integrity is simply taken for granted. Just by where they are born. Whatever they say against you is supposed to be taken for granted. It has nothing to do with the facts. It only has to do with where this person was born. These are the places most of these problems come from. Falsehoods become facts, and victims become villains. Acts of terrorism are portrayed as principled expressions of opposition and dissent, while Rwanda’s response is singled out for criticism. We will be happy to be criticised for doing what we have to do and believe. We are left wondering how many bodies there have to be before we are seen as having the right to take appropriate action.”
Furthermore, President Kagame went back memory lane to 1994 when some people were struggling to call it ‘genocide’ and stated that the current struggle is people are struggling to call it ‘Genocide against the Tutsi’. And that the problem of definitions started in 1994, of just people simply naming it what it was; by refusing to call it genocide. During the speech, he reiterated that “it is interesting how history repeats itself. We have almost gone full circle from 1994 to now. We have a repetition of questioning words and definitions and all kinds of things.”
The President briefly touched on the substance of the report commissioned by President Emmanuel Macron of France and carried out by French historian Vincent Duclert (the report which took years to conclude; was conducted by a team of thirteen researchers and historians) titled France, Rwanda and the Genocide Against The Tutsi. He stated that “We welcome this report because it marks an important step toward a common understanding of what took place. It also marks a change, it shows the desire, even for leaders in France, to move forward with a good understanding of what happened, and we welcome this. We welcome this. We are going to have the report presented to us; I have been informed about it. Rwanda will also have a word to say in the near future, maybe around the third week of this month (April 2021). The findings we have in our hands, based on the work that has been done by people who were commissioned to do that in parallel to what was being done in France — the findings go in the same direction. 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.”
The President of Rwanda further reiterated that and in his words; “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. But the currency of forgiveness is truth. We cannot get tired of talking about the realities we have lived.”
Before the conclusion of his speech with the fable of the lion and the sheep; he thanked Rwandans for remaining dedicated to the task of unity and reconciliation. And he also thanked the many friends around the world who have joined with Rwanda over the years. Highlighting and stating that “While some people were having problems of calling it Genocide at the United Nations; some amazing countries and their representatives stood up and stood out, and said no. He went further to state that “one of the countries is an African country that we shall always be proud to call a good friend, represented by a man I remember, called Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria. Nigeria stood out and said no. There is a problem and we must call it what it is. Professor Gambari was there, and we shall always be proud of Nigeria. Then there was the Czech Republic and there was New Zealand. Countries you would not think about first. There is a tendency to always think about these big countries. But we will always be indebted and thankful to some of these people across the world.”
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