Statement by H.E. Mr Ernest Rwamucyo,
High Commissioner of the Republic of Rwanda to the United Kingdom,
On the 17th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, organized by the High Commission, Southwark Cathedral and the Rwandan Community in the United Kingdom
London, April 7th, 2011
Your Excellency, Deputy Secretary General of the Commonwealth,
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners and Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Officials of the UK Government,
Members of Parliament and Lords,
The Leadership of Southwark Cathedral and the Rev. Andrew Nunn, Acting Dean of the Cathedral,
Friends of Rwanda and Members of the Rwandan Community
Today April 7th, 2011 marks the 17th commemoration of the genocide in which more than a million Rwandans were murdered.
From April 7th, 1994, for 100 days, darkness descended on Rwanda. Over 1 million innocent people were slaughtered.
The entire country was reduced to rubble. Innocent lives were destroyed. Dreams of young men and women, smiles of babies, the wisdom of the old, the talents and skills of able bodied Rwandans were all destroyed.
The very foundation upon which the Rwandan society was built was shuttered. Infrastructure was destroyed. Rwanda was a failed state.
Those who survived the genocide against the Tutsi were traumatised. Many were disabled. A large number of Rwandans were left with physical and psychological wounds.
Let me remind everyone that this is a genocide that should have never happened. It could have been prevented. But it happened and with catastrophic consequences. I only hope the world learnt something.
We are here to remember and commemorate the victims of the genocide against the Rwandan Tutsi. This act of remembrance is very important. It is a must and an obligation. We owe it to the victims and the survivors.
It is in remembering that we dignify those who were killed in the most in-humane way. Through this act of commemoration, we offer support and stand with the survivors who continue to endure untold suffering. This period of commemoration encourages survivors to tell their untold stories. This is an important part of the healing process.
Equally important, by remembering, we re-commit to ensuring that what happened in Rwanda 17 years ago, should never happen again. Never again in Rwanda or elsewhere on the face of this earth.
This requires unequivocal commitment from each one of us to make our individual and collective commitment to initiatives and actions that aim to prevent atrocities like this happening anywhere.
But in remembering, we must also forgive. Remembering while committing to forgive those who sincerely seek to be forgiven has been a key consideration in Rwanda’s search for unity and reconciliation.
The very foundation upon which the Gacaca courts were built as a form of reconciliatory justice, rooted in Rwandan values and culture, placed solid emphasis on dialogue, community ownership, truth and forgiveness. This was an important consideration for the sake of healing and reconciliation.
A compromise had to be made if we were to uproot the culture of impunity, administer justice fairly while taking Rwandans through a process of healing and building a strong foundation for a new and harmonious society.
A punitive, classical justice system would not have achieved this objective.
Your Excellencies, allow me to emphasize that;
For all Rwandans, this 17th commemoration is a time for us to pause and reflect further on the journey we are on of building a prosperous and secure future for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. We need to look back with honesty and ensure that the legacy of genocide is faced with truth and dignity. Then we can look forward with a deepened understanding.
The theme for this year’s commemoration “Upholding the truth; Preserving our dignity” aims to emphasize this fact.
For the survivors, dignity comes when their stories and experiences are witnessed and believed. Truth telling honours the victims and survivors.
This time of commemoration is a time for those survivors who have not yet told their stories to step out of silence and find their voice and share with others and find dignity in doing so.
Dignity and taking ownership of the tragedy by Rwandans in the aftermath of the genocide has been critical in rebuilding the country.
17 years on, Rwandans have picked up the pieces. The process of healing continues. Rwandans have been gracious in the face of despair. There is a determination to move on and not be bogged down by an unfortunate past.
Survivors of genocide and former perpetrators of genocide continue to live alongside each other. They go to the same church. Draw water from the same well. Their children go to the same school. They are members of the same producer cooperative and sit on the same village committees.
Rwanda has changed. It has changed for the good. The momentum of positive change in our country cannot be stopped.
Rwandans are very positive and optimistic about the future.
Children, who were born after the genocide stopped, have today qualified to play in the under 17 world cup in Mexico this summer, taking Rwanda to this precious tournament for the first time in the country’s history. Such is the hope and ambition of a new Rwanda.
Women are influencing decision-making and contributing to development.
The economy is growing. In 2010 alone, the economy grew by over 7%. Per capita income has doubled from US$250 in 2000 to US$ 540 in 2010.
The infrastructure has tremendously improved. Access to information and communication has greatly expanded with increased access to internet and mobile phones. 95% of the country is connected on the fibre optic cable for high speed internet.
96% of Rwanda’s boys and girls are enrolled in primary school and over 90% of the population has access to health insurance.
Rwanda is an active member of the East African Community. We are celebrating our first year as a member of the Commonwealth.
The country has zero tolerance for corruption and is focussed on results and accountability.
Tourism is booming. Private sector investment is growing. This year alone, Rwanda is targeting to attract new investments worth US$550 million.
The country is changing. Indeed the country has changed. It will continue to change and change for the better.
President Paul Kagame has to be credited for providing the country with visionary leadership. This has been of critical importance in giving Rwandans confidence, ensuring stability and inculcating a culture of hard work, self sacrifice and discipline that has steered the country through the darkest periods of our history to a more optimistic focus on the future. Every country emerging out of conflict needs this kind of committed and visionary leadership. Rwanda has been very lucky to have a leader of that calibre.
In concluding, I take this opportunity to thank our partners who have stood with us, believed in us and continue to support the various development initiatives we have undertaken to rebuild our country.
We assure you that in us, you have a principled and trustworthy partner. Our relationship can only get stronger and more fruitful for our common good.
I would like to thank the leadership of Southwark Cathedral and the Reverend Andrew Nunn for hosting us and organizing this commemoration event. Indeed Southwark Cathedral has become a home for the Rwandan Community in the UK where every year we gather to remember and commemorate our relatives, friends and neighbours who perished in the genocide. The Cathedral kindly offered to continue to host us for future genocide remembrance events.
For this, I would like to pay tribute to the late Venerable Reverend Colin Slee who suddenly died late last year. Colin Slee’s death was a huge loss to all of us.
He was a man with a big heart for Africa and a very good friend of Rwanda. He was passionate about development and championing the dignity of humanity. His towering personality will remain with all of us who had the honour of working with him. May his soul rest in eternal peace
For those who participated in the commemoration event last year will remember that Colin formally launched the fundraising for the project of a Permanent Genocide Memorial to be built here at Southwark Cathedral and a scholarship fund for Rwandan students. We are committed to ensuring that this project he initiated and was so passionate about will be successfully be completed.
I would like to thank all of you for standing with us.