About twenty years after the tragedy of 1994, about 1,500 elderly genocide survivors from around the country are still either homeless or living in poor, unsatisfactory conditions. The government, through the Genocide survivors fund (FARG), says it is ready to build houses for the homeless and to rehabilitate those which are in critical conditions.
The program groups elders together, in order to facilitate their supervision regarding their living conditions, their health, and their assistance in general for a better, less lonely living style.
In order to make this feasible, Theophile Ruberangeyo, the executive secretary of FARG, says they are thinking of constructing and rehabilitating shared, group.
“These elders suffer from loneliness and lack of care, but if they are somehow together, they will interact each other and it is very easy to be aware of their neighbors’ problems”, he said. Apart from being old aged, some of these widows have other health problems like disabilities, and these should also get special care.
Local leaders, through a video-conference last week, expressed worries that the given budget is not enough to make sure that the houses are sustainable.
For instance, 944 houses slated for rehabilitation were allocated Frw 300 million, a small amount for so many houses. However, Ruberangeyo assured that there is a plan to have the budget increased in the upcoming budget revision.
Some districts, like Gisagara, have already adopted the plan. Leandre Karekezi, the mayor of Gisagara district, says that once the elders were living close to one another, it was easy to protect and care for them.
“There even some activities that they can do if they are together. They feel somehow not alone as they could feel if everyone is in his or her own house”, he said.
Inkeragutabara will build the houses, and most of districts have already signed contracts with them. Districts that have not yet signed contracts are requested to do it as soon as possible in order to have all activities starting in all districts.
James Musoni, the Minister of Local Government, appreciated the initiative, arguing that it will help in making sure that these elders are well assisted. He suggested that there be a social worker hired to supervise these elders, providing services like counseling, among others.
According to suggestions from local leaders, each house will accommodate four or five widows. The Minister requested that the FARG establish an overall design of these houses in order to start the construction.
Fitch Ratings revised Rwanda’s Outlook to ‘Positive’ from ‘Stable’ while simultaneously affirming Rwanda’s long-term foreign and local currency Issuer Default Rating (IDR) at ‘B’ and short-term foreign currency IDR at ‘B’. Fitch has also affirmed Rwanda’s Country Ceiling at ‘B’.
According to Fitch ratings, the revision of the outlook from stable to positive reflects continuing rapid and inclusive GDP growth in the future, high governance standards relative to regional peers, marked improvements in poverty reduction that attracted high levels of international support, and low public and external debt.
A sovereign rating indicates the rating agency’s opinion of a country’s credit worthiness, or in other words ability and willingness to meet its financial obligations in timely manner. Credit ratings, as opinions on vulnerability to default, do not necessarily imply a specific likelihood of a country’s defaulting on its payment.
This year’s rating is the fourth following the first in 2006, the second in 2010 and the third in 2011. At ‘B’, Rwanda’s rating is within the range of regional countries. A ‘Positive” outlook may imply to a certain extent possibility of rating upgrade provided continued positive trends in factors that triggered the upgrade in the outlook.
Kigali — The World bank has approved a grant of $50m aimed at bolstering Rwanda’s poverty eradication efforts.
It fund will also see Rwandans cushioned from the full impact of shocks, from unemployment or illness to sudden natural disasters.Carolyn Turk, World Bank Country Manager for Rwanda said that while Rwanda has pushed back poverty dramatically in the past decade, it is still one of the world’s poorest countries.
“We are happy to continue supporting Rwanda’s efforts to manage its social safety net programs more efficiently, so that poor people can withstand economic and climatic shocks better and benefit more from economic growth,” she said
Rwanda has recently seen a record decline in poverty, from 57 percent in 2006 to 45% in 2011. The government has partly attributed this success to its social safety net programs.
Every year, on February 1, Rwandans celebrate the National Heroes’ Day. It is the day on which we reflect on acts by national heroes and heroines and the values for which they are remembered. Heroes are classified into three categories; Imanzi, Imena and Ingenzi.
Imanzi are supreme heroes who demonstrated outstanding achievements occasioned by supreme sacrifice, outstanding importance and example. This category, which only has the late Maj Gen Fred Rwigema and the Unknown Soldier, can only be awarded posthumously.
Heroes in the Imena category are reputed for their extraordinary acts for the country marked by sacrifice, high importance and example.
The Ingenzi category comprises heroes who are still alive.
The Unknown Soldier (‘Imanzi’)
The Unknown Soldier represents all the fallen soldiers of the liberation struggle. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier is at the National Heroes’ Mausoleum in Remera, next to Amahoro National Stadium. The tomb is a way of commemorating the soldiers whose remains could not be identified after the Liberation war.
Maj Gen. Fred Gisa Rwigema (‘Imanzi’)
Born on April 10, 1957 in Mukiranze village, Kamonyi District (former Gitarama) in the Southern Province, Maj Gen. Fred Gisa Rwigema died on October 2, 1990, on the second day of the Rwanda Patriotic Army liberation war. His parents were Anastasie Kimonyo and Gatarina Mukandilima. The young Rwigema and his family fled to Uganda and settled in Nshungerezi Refugee Camp in the 1960’s following the 1959 pogroms.
On June 20, 1987, he married Janet Urujeni and they were blessed with two children: Junior Gisa and Teta Gisa. In 1974, he went to Tanzania and joined the Front for National Salvation (FRONASA), a rebel group led by Yoweri Museveni. Later in 1976, he travelled to Mozambique and joined the FRELIMO rebels who were fighting for the Mozambican liberation against the Portuguese colonial power. In 1981, 27 soldiers including Rwigema and his childhood friend and current President Paul Kagame, and Museveni, started a liberation struggle against the then regime of Uganda president Milton Obote. Rwigema helped the National Resistance Army (NRA) capture state power in 1986 and was appointed the Ugandan Deputy Minister of Defence.
He was regularly at the front line in northern Uganda during the government’s offensive against remnants of the ousted regime. He attained several positions in the Ugandan army, including Deputy Army Commander and Overall Operations Commander. But despite holding all the above posts, he always held Rwanda at heart. Rwigema is remembered for being among those who greatly inspired the Rwandan refugees to liberate their country, and on October 1, 1990, he spearheaded Rwanda’s liberation struggle. He was shot at the front line on the second day of the attack.
Umwami Mutara III Rudahigwa Charles Léon Pierre (‘Imena’)
He was the son of King Yuhi IV Musinga and Nyiramavugo Kankazi Redegonde. He became King on November 16, 1931 after the abdication of his father on November 13, 1931. During his rule, King Rudahigwa advocated for the welfare of Rwandans, independence, democracy and fought against injustice through the King’s Court. He married Nyiramakomali on October 15, 1933 but separated in 1940. He then married Rosalie Gicanda on January 18, 1942. He worked hard to educate Rwandans through the establishment of the Mutara Fund and requested Jesuits to establish a college in Gitarama but, instead, the college was built in Bujumbura, Burundi. Rudahigwa later set up the Islamic college in Nyamirambo, a Kigali , suburb and another school in Kanyanza and offered scholarships to many Rwandans to study in Europe. Under his reign, he eliminated all forms of slavery and advocated for unity and reconciliation among Rwandans. King Mutara III Rudahigwa died under mysterious circumstances on July 25, 1959 in what many consider to have been an assassination.
Michel Rwagasana (‘Imena’)
Michel Rwagasana was born in 1927, in Gitisi, Nyamagana of Ruhango District in the Southern Province. He attended Groupe Scolaire Astrida, attaining a Diploma in Administration. He married Suzana Nzayire in 1957 and the two were blessed with four children, but he never got a chance to see his last born because he died when his wife was three months pregnant. Rwagasana attained several distinctive positions due to his integrity; he later became the Personal Secretary of King Mutara III Rudahigwa from 1954. His unvarying advocacy for unity, independence and denouncing ethnic differences. He was killed during the regime of Gregory Kayibanda for declining to embrace ethnic segregation.
Agathe Uwilingiyimana (‘Imena’)
Agatha Uwilingiyimana was born on June 23, 1953, in Gitore, Gisagara District of the Southern Province. She was the daughter of Yuvenali Ntibashirakandi and Saverina Nyirantibangwa. She got married to Ignace Barahira in 1976 and was blessed with five children. Uwilingiyimana became the first woman to hold the position of Prime Minister in Rwanda’s history from July 17, 1993 to April 1994. Prior to that, she served as the Minister of Education where she advocated for equal rights among students. During her time in office, she advocated for the rights of women and spearheaded the fight against divisionism. She was assassinated on April 7, 1994 by the Genocida; machinery.
Félicité Niyitegeka (‘Imena’)
Born in 1934, Félicité Niyitegeka was the daughter of Simon Sekabwa and Angelina Nyirampabuka. She was killed on April 21, 1994 during the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. Niyitegeka is remembered for refusing to part ways with the people who found refuge at Centre Saint Pierre in Gisenyi (currently Rubavu District).
She was just a casual worker when her brother asked her to separate from the Tutsis since the military was aware of her activities, but she declined. When the Interahamwe militias came to her house, she already had over 30 Tutsi refugees in her house. The Interahamwe informed her that she would be spared but her charges would have to be killed, but opted to die alongside them.
Nyange SSS students (‘Imena’)
The Senior Five and Senior Six students of Nyange Secondary School were on March 18 1997, attacked by remnants of the genocidal machinery (during the insurgency days) who forced them to separate themselves along ethnic lines. They refused and the attackers killed six of them, including four girls. Those that were killed are Sylvestre Bizimana, Chantal Mujawamahoro, Beatrice Mukambaraga, Seraphine Mukarutwaza, Helene Benimana, and Valens Ndemeye. The Nyange heroes are among millions of victims of the decades of bad leadership that attempted to erase our characteristic values that were historically built around our common identity since the days of our forefathers.
Understandably, events that commemorate these fallen students and all other celebrated national heroes evoke bitter memories. February 1 is also a reminder that there are exemplary men, women and children, who laid down their lives for this nation and whose love for this country should inspire us all to work hard to advance the same values they strived for.
“Rwanda, our beautiful and dear country / Adorned of hills, lakes and volcanoes / Motherland, would be always filled of happiness…”
UNITED NATIONS – Top diplomats observed a minute of silence Wednesday after lighting five white candles in memory of more than 500,000 people killed in the Rwandan genocide 18 years ago. They vowed to pursue justice for the victims and survivors by apprehending fugitive Rwandan killers.
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice recalled that the “United Nations was established in the shadow of a genocide,” the Nazi slaughter of six million Jews during World War II.
“It suffered an enormous blow to its credibility and effectiveness in the face of another genocide, the one we’re gathered to commemorate today,” she said, a reference to the U.N.’s failure to intervene and halt the Rwanda genocide.
Rice reminded the gathered diplomats that the first inkling that a genocide had begun in Rwanda came when the U.N. peacekeeping mission chief, Canadian Maj.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire, was called to the morgue room of a Kigali hospital.
“In a dark room, the beam of his flashlight revealed what was left of 10 Belgian peacekeepers, mutilated beyond recognition. In the same hospital, 100 times that number of innocent Rwandans lay dead. And this was just the beginning.”
Rwanda’s genocide began hours after a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana was mysteriously shot down as it approached the capital, Kigali, on April 6, 1994.
The 100-day slaughter, in which more than 500,000 minority Tutsis and moderate members of the Hutu majority were killed by Hutu extremists, ended after Tutsi-led rebels ousted the extremist Hutu government that orchestrated the killings.
Rwanda’s U.N. Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana said that “Genocide is a meticulously thought-out atrocity, harbored in the minds and hearts” of the perpetrators, and rehearsed on various occasions: in 1959, when thousands of Tutsis were killed and driven from their homes, again in the 1960s, and in 1973, when young Tutsis were killed in their schools.
It all led to the “1994 apocalypse,” he said.
Gasana warned against genocide denial and trivialization, and appealed for the arrest and trial of Rwandan killers who have found shelter in other nations, where they have become politically active and propagandized against the history of Rwanda’s slaughter.
In a taped message, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was en route to Europe, said: “To those who persist in suppressing their fellow citizens, who cry out for dignity and freedom, we send a clear message: justice must be done.”
“Our eyes will never be closed again,” promised the General Assembly’s president, Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser.
The remains of over 25,000 victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi were on Sunday accorded a decent burial at the recently refurbished Cyanika Memorial Site in Nyamagabe District.
The bodies were exhumed from three mass graves near Cyanika Catholic Church.
According to testimonies, information about the existence of the mass graves only came to light a few years ago; a reason which could justify why they had not been buried almost 18 years on.
The exact number of Tutsis who were dumped in the mass graves is not known, but it is estimated to be between 25,000 and 30,000 or over.
According to survivors who sought refuge at Cyanika Catholic Church, a list compiled on April 11, 1994 by the then authorities contained names of about 30,000 people.
“Other people seeking refuge at this church also arrived in the following days, thinking that they would be safe. The number of those who perished here might be above what we think today. We should start with this list to look for the exact number of those who were killed here,” said Senator Jean Damascene Bizimana, who survived the Cyanika killings.
A mammoth crowd of local residents, survivors and top government officials joined those whose relatives were laid to rest last Sunday in the ceremony.
Ministers Aloysea Inyumba (Gender and Family Promotion), Ignace Gatare of ICT, Agnes Binagwaho of Health and the Minister of Labour, Anastase Murekezi, attended the ceremony.
Also present was the Vice President of the Senate, Bernard Makuza and several lawmakers.
A Catholic priest, Father Joseph Niyomugabo, was among those whose remains were buried last weekend.
According to testimonies, the priest refused to abandon Tutsis who had sought refuge at the parish though he was being pushed to do so by his superiors. He was reportedly paraded naked in the area before being killed by Interahamwe militia.
“This day is very important in our lives as our beloved ones are laid to rest in a decent manner. We were impatient to see our families, relatives and friends given the respect they deserve,” said André Martin Karongozi, a survivor.
The president of the umbrella organisation of Genocide survivors associations’ IBUKA, Dr Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu, remarked that the burial was possible due to reconciliation efforts.
Remarks by Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, At the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology on “Building a New Nation: Rwanda’s Progress and Potential” Susan E. Rice
Good evening, everyone. Thank you very much for coming out and thank you for welcoming me to the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology. I want to thank very much and warmly from the bottom of my heart the Foreign Minister for her very kind introduction. Honorable ministers, thank you also for being here. I’d like to thank the Rector of the Kigali Institute for hosting me today and for all the great work that went into pulling this event together. And I’d also like to thank my colleague, Ambassador Don Koran, the American ambassador to Rwanda and his entire team at the U.S. Embassy for their assistance as well.
I have come to Rwanda to bear witness to the remarkable progress you have made against all odds.
Rwanda holds its own tragic place in the 20th century’s grim litany of mass violence. As you know so well, the evil of genocide came swiftly, home by home, in the form of men with machetes, calls to murder hissed out over transistor radios, lists of innocents for slaughter. Deliberate, direct cruelties that still leave us shocked and shaken.
Rwanda did not suffer from so-called “ancient hatreds.” It suffered from modern demagogues: from the ex-FAR, the Interahamwe, Radio Mille Collines. It suffered from those who were willing to kill in the name of difference, from those who saw division and death as the path to power. And it suffered from the indifference of neighbors, international institutions, and individual governments – including my own – that failed to act in the face of a vast, unfolding evil.
Tomorrow, I will take my husband and two children to the genocide memorial here in Kigali, so they can experience what I have learned in my prior visits. We will pay our respects both to those forever lost and to the brave survivors, who challenge us all even to comprehend their enduring sacrifices and extraordinary strength.
Today, I am here as an American ambassador. But I also will speak for myself, from my heart. I visited Rwanda for the very first time in December 1994, six months after the genocide ended. I was a young Director on the National Security Council staff at the White House, accompanying the then-National Security Advisor, Anthony Lake. I was responsible then for issues relating to the United Nations and peacekeeping. And needless to say, we saw first-hand the spectacular consequences of the poor decisions taken by those countries, including my own and yours, that were then serving on the United Nations Security Council.
I will never forget the horror of walking through a church and an adjacent schoolyard where one of the massacres had occurred. Six months later, the decomposing bodies of those who had been so cruelly murdered still lay strewn around what should have been a place of peace. For me, the memory of stepping around and over those corpses will remain the most searing reminder imaginable of what humans can do to one another. Those images stay with me in the work I do today, ensuring that I can never forget how important it is for all of us to prevent genocide from recurring.
Here, after three long months, the genocide finally ended. But the destruction was hardly over. Up to a million dead. Another million refugees scattered across borders, including thousands of genocidaire eager to resume battle. Zaire was their rear base, and the refugees in UN-supported camps were their hostages. Rwanda, according to the World Bank, in just a few months had become the poorest country on earth. And within a few short years, it sent forces into neighboring Congo. “Africa’s first world war,” as it was called, claimed millions more lives from battle and disease.
Yet, even as war still raged, another story was beginning to play itself out. The people and the new government envisioned a different Rwanda, one where reconciliation replaced division, where healing helped salve deep wounds, where self-sufficiency could eventually defeat despair.
Having endured the worst, you nonetheless aspired for the best.
First, you worked to address the past, so your future could come sooner. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda is finally winding down. Gacaca courts, adapting traditional justice practices to the overwhelming task of separating the innocent from the small fish, and the small fish from the most guilty planners and perpetrators, brought a measure of justice and reconciliation. Many former ex-FAR-Interahamwe militants have been reintegrated into society. Though much more remains to be done, the processing of cases, the commuting of sentences to community service, and the building of new jails have combined to reduce the number of prisoners by half over the past decade.
Gradually, deliberately, Rwanda has been trying to make itself whole.
Over time, you have implemented enlightened gender policies, advanced new development models, insisted on clean government, and made forward-looking investments.
You are living in the midst of astonishing change. I know that perhaps in the stress of daily life, it might not seem like much. Undoubtedly, you want more and faster change – more development, more opportunity, more freedom. And you deserve it. Your progress, of course, has been uneven, with economic development far outpacing political development. But, as you naturally strive for a brighter future, don’t lose sight of how far you have come. To many Americans and other foreigners, what you have achieved in seventeen short years is truly impressive. It gives us hope and new models. It shows other developing countries emerging from conflict what can be accomplished with effective policies and committed citizens. South Sudan, Liberia, the Central African Republic, Haiti, Guinea, Nepal and many others would do well to take a couple pages from the book you have begun to write for Rwanda.
As President Obama said last year at the United Nations Millennium Development Goals Summit, when he launched our Global Development Initiative: we “seek partners who want to build their own capacity to provide for their people. Because the days when your development was dictated in foreign capitals must come to an end.”
Rwanda is just such a partner.
Starting with women. The genocide and war reduced the male population disproportionately, leaving a leadership vacuum. The government and international donors – notably the United Nations Development Program and the Inter-Parliamentary Union – turned this into an opportunity. Women were trained in parliamentary leadership, and 30 percent of parliamentary seats were reserved for women. Yet by 2003, women had won 48 percent of the seats in the lower house, more than a third of which were unreserved seats. In 2008, women as you know took an even greater share: 45 out of 80 seats, making Rwanda the only country in the world to this day with a female parliamentary majority. This puts the rest of us to shame.
Economically, you’ve made an astonishing recovery: per capita gross domestic product has tripled since 1994. The foundation for this growth of course has been agriculture. The government, with external support, has reduced soil erosion through terracing and tree planting. It’s promoted effective use of fertilizers and pesticides, which has increased production. Consolidation of landholdings is slowly transforming farm production from subsistence to industrial levels, despite its complexities. Over the last decade, agriculture has grown at 5 percent or more per year. The United States is proud to play a small part in that growth through President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative.
At the same time, you have seen your economy diversify. Eco-tourism is becoming a major success. The services sector is now the largest in the economy, growing at about 10 percent a year.
The driver of Rwanda’s development is, first and foremost, the commitment of its people as well as the government to make development a priority. Combined with determined and able governance, a firm belief in innovation and entrepreneurship, and high-quality foreign aid that comes from meaningful and genuine partnerships; and a deliberate strategy for engaging the free market, this commitment is translating into tangible results.
Balancing all these factors is never easy. And let’s be honest, no government today can claim to be getting it exactly right when it comes to economic governance and performance. Still, Rwanda is making striking progress. The World Bank’s “Doing Business in 2012” analysis once again raised Rwanda’s ranking: it is now 45 out of 183 countries. Not so long ago, Rwanda was ranked 141. That is a massive leap.
The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report now ranks Rwanda the 70th most competitive economy in the world; just two years ago, it was the 80th. The World Economic Forum gave extremely high ratings to Rwanda in three areas: participation of women in the labor force, the ease of starting a business, and the cleanliness of government. Today, I had the opportunity to visit Kigali’s One-Stop Shop, One-Stop Center, the Rwanda Development Board, and saw firsthand that it is easy to start a business here in Rwanda. And Rwanda’s policies aimed at rooting out corruption only make it easier. In its most recent global-corruption report, Transparency International rated Rwanda the least corrupt country in East Africa.
Yet, perhaps the greatest challenge of all, the one that takes generations to accomplish, is building human capital — raising up the health, education, and skills of a nation.
Rwanda has focused on primary education; thus, you are investing in the future. Roughly 43 percent as you know of your population is under the age of 15. Education spending has risen steadily as a share of Gross Domestic Product and now accounts for about a fifth of your national budget. The bulk of this goes to basic education, through the 9th grade. Literacy rates have risen already from 58 percent in 1999 to 71 percent in 2009. This year, the government proposed increasing free universal education from nine years to twelve and continues to invest heavily in teacher training to raise the quality of instruction.
Healthier children of course make better students, and my country has devoted much of our assistance to improving health care here. Whether you are measuring immunization rates or the use of insecticide-treated bed nets, healthcare practices here are improving. Basic health insurance is accessible to almost all Rwandans, which is more than I can say for the United States. The share of government expenditure devoted to healthcare has more than tripled since 1996. The mortality rate for children under five has, in just five years, been reduced by more than half. Yes. And thanks to agricultural policies, protein and calorie production have reached international standards.
Rwandans are swiftly becoming better educated, better fed, and better cared for.
As a small, densely populated, landlocked and mountainous country, Rwanda has few natural assets that can facilitate economies or fuel trade. So the government is looking to digital technology to build virtual ports and shrink the distance between Rwanda and the global economy. Information and communications technologies are critical to developing both the productive capacity and the human capital that together form the foundation for lasting economic growth. The number of internet users in Rwanda more than doubled in the last few years. It is certain to increase much more as the country’s fiber-optic network – completed just last year — gets fully up to speed. Cellular and wireless access will help transform Rwandan society.
Advanced technology though does more than just ease communication. Most developing countries have sought to get their energy the cheapest way they can, which is usually the dirtiest: by chopping and burning trees, burning diesel fuel, or burning coal. Rwanda is taking advantage of technology and its own natural gift of water to build a hydro-power industry, which already accounts for half of the country’s electricity generation. You also have projects underway to transform dangerous methane gas into a clean source of electricity.
As a member of the East Africa Community, Rwanda is helping build a larger market that will foster intra-regional trade, spur investment in infrastructure, agriculture and energy, and strengthen all of the Community’s members by harmonizing policies and practices. Similarly, the U.S.-Rwanda Bilateral Investment Treaty, which was just ratified by our Senate in September, will solidify business ties between our two countries.
Rwanda’s economic and social progress has also been accompanied by a parallel rise in its international stature – from a collapsed and divided state, to a respected partner in security and development. Relations with your neighbors have improved markedly. Even more, you’ve taken the terrible materials of the past and transformed them into a mission to bring peace.
Rwanda’s peacekeeping contributions began in 2004 with the deployment of less than a couple hundred military personnel to Darfur as part of the African Union mission. Now, there are 3,500 Rwandans involved in UN missions around the world. While most of Rwanda’s peacekeepers serve in Sudan, they have also proved valuable in Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Haiti, the Central African Republic, and Chad.
Rwanda has paid the ultimate price on these missions, losing its sons. And I want to send, extend my personal sympathies and those of my government to the families of Sergeant John Twahirwa and Private Samuel Ntakirutimana, who gave their lives in Darfur just a few weeks ago.
For Rwanda, peacekeeping is practiced not in isolation, but also within the context of development. In Sudan, Rwandan soldiers have spread the Umuganda work tradition. They’ve manufactured bricks to build schools, and introduced rondereza – energy-efficient stoves – so women will not run such a risk of attack while searching for firewood.
Taking its commitments onto the global stage, Rwanda is now the current chair of the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission. And it’s been my privilege to work closely with your Ambassador to the United Nations Eugene Gasana in advancing that commission’s agenda to help war-torn societies reconcile, rebuild and develop. The Peacebuilding Commission is part of a broad set of reforms adopted at the United Nations in 2005, including a new doctrine known as “the responsibility to protect.”
This doctrine requires that the international community protect civilians even at the expense of a national government’s sovereignty, if and when that government fails to protect its own citizens – or, worse still — is attacking them itself. This is a concept with special significance for Rwanda. And as you would expect, Rwanda is known globally as a strong and principled proponent of the responsibility to protect.
Every situation is different, and of course each situation calls for a different policy response. Yet many of us heard strong echoes of 1994 when Muammar Qaddafi promised he would root out the people of Benghazi and go house to house killing innocents like “rats” as he called them. Just yesterday, as the Foreign Minister said, I was in Libya. And there, I visited a detention facility that Qaddafi’s forces had torched before retreating from Tripoli. Over 100 people were killed by bullets and grenades in one small warehouse, and then their remains were lit on fire.
I knew from my visit to Rwanda in 1994 that such atrocities were likely in Libya, if Qaddafi went unchecked. I knew we should act, and so did President Obama.
Despite the risks and the costs, President Obama was determined not to sit back and watch another predictable horror unfold before his eyes. He knew that doing nothing would not only again stain our national conscience but also deliver a license to dictators to kill the Arab Spring in its very crib. He knew it would also send a terrible message about the international community’s inability to act – even with a call for help from the Libyan people and the Arab League, even with the capability to stop a massacre that would have left tens, if not hundreds, of thousands dead.
My President refused to let that happen. Knowing a no-fly zone alone would be too little too late, President Obama ordered me to try to get from the United Nations Security Council a robust mandate to protect civilians, one that allowed the aggressive use of airpower to halt Qaddafi’s advance. This time, the Security Council acted. And acted in time. Having failed in Rwanda, having failed in Darfur, it did not fail again in Libya. Within less than two days, American firepower played a decisive role in stopping Qaddafi’s forces and saving Benghazi, and our coalition continued its efforts to protect the Libyan people.
Because we all acted, countless men, women and children were spared. Because we acted, the Libyan people had the time and the space to end the Qaddafi regime and start a new beginning. Because we acted, the international community gave meaning to the promises that have been made by so many so many times here on Rwandan soil – that we will not stand idly by when we have the capability to stop an atrocity.
That is also why the United States is sending military advisors to support Central African states as they try to put an end to decades of war crimes committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army.
When it came to Libya, many African nations were silent, skeptical or even harshly critical of the decision to intervene to protect innocents. Not Rwanda. Alone among African nations outside the Security Council, Rwanda readily and publicly agreed. “Our responsibility to protect is unquestionable,” President Kagame said. And I further quote: “This is the right thing to do, and this view is backed with the authority of having witnessed and suffered the terrible consequences of international inaction.” So Rwanda has not just moved beyond its own genocide, it has consistently led by example, from Darfur to Libya, in standing up against those who would commit genocide or mass atrocities.
I have visited Rwanda now several times, and as always, I come here as a friend. This time, for the first time, I will be joined by my family. I want them to see your beautiful country and to learn what can be accomplished when a proud people unite in common cause. I want them also to witness and take inspiration from your achievements.
I believe as well that friends should speak frankly to friends.
Rwanda’s economic vitality has moved the country forward. Social progress has been substantial. Yet, the political culture in Rwanda remains comparatively closed. Press restrictions persist. Civil society activists, journalists, and political opponents of the government often fear organizing peacefully and speaking out. Some have been harassed. Some have been intimidated by late-night callers. Some have simply disappeared.
Yet, the world is moving rapidly in a different direction. Across the globe, including in societies where the common wisdom was that freedom would never arrive, we’re seeing people demand the right to chart their own future, to organize peaceful demonstrations, and to criticize their own governments. From an angry young fruit seller in Tunisia, the demand to be heard has spread across North Africa and the Middle East. It has been taken up in Egypt. Then Libyans demanded the end to Qaddafi’s 42 years of tyranny. Today, Syrians and Yemenis are being killed by their governments simply for saying what they think about their leaders and their future. But they will keep speaking out, because they have a universal right to do so. And they know it.
These rights to freedom of assembly, freedom of expression, freedom to organize peacefully, are just as vital, just as inherent in Asia, in Latin America and in Sub-Saharan Africa as they are in Europe, America or the Middle East. As President Kagame said, and I quote, “The uprising in Libya has already sent a powerful—excuse me—has already sent a message to leaders in Africa and beyond. It is that if we lose touch with our people, if we do not serve them as they deserve and address their needs, there will be consequences. Their grievances will accumulate – and no matter how much time passes, they can turn against you.”
The deepening and the broadening of democracy can be the next great achievement of this great country and its remarkable people. In Rwanda, economic development and political openness can reinforce each other. This is Rwanda’s next great developmental challenge. And, with all that you have achieved over the past 17 years, I am confident you will pass this milestone as well.
Already, you are an example to all nations of what can be accomplished. You are an example to all nations of what can be accomplished after disaster strikes. Nothing can bring back what this nation has sacrificed. Grief wanes, but it never ends. Yet, we also know that the living must do credit to the lost, by building the future they should have been here to help build. A nation, just like a people, can overcome. Rwanda is proof.
Nearly half of Rwandans today were born after the genocide ended. The generation that came through the genocide is passing on a country much more rich with possibility, healthier, better educated, and at peace. I am grateful to witness your extraordinary progress. And, I am proud to affirm that the United States will continue to stand with you, in friendship and partnership, as you take Rwanda to the next level of development and democracy.
Thank you, very, very much.
As we prepare for the 17th Commemoration Anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide against Tutsis, Rwandans and friends of Rwandans are remembering loved ones and reflecting on the past and the achievements realised since then including justice, women empowerment, health, education unity and reconciliation and many other factors
This years commemoration will be held under the theme: ” Upholding the truth, Preserving Our Dignity” ,
And as we get ready to mourn in remembrance we also celebrate how far we have come from that darkest of past’s, we celebrate our freedom of speech, we celebrate finally being noticed as human beings that deserve every good thing this life has to offer, and we celebrate the TRUTH!
Friends of Evil is a blog that informs the public about the people who still deny or try to justify the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda , Knowledge is Power and we thank God that through different mediums today, the truth is easily accessible to people
A Brilliant Article, ”Revising genocide’s truth in God’s name” discusses the role of the Catholic Church in The 1994 genocide (please copy and paste link in the browser to read )
Prime Minister of Rwanda, Bernard Makuza has also appealed to the nation to support survivors and each other during the commemoration period
The Rwanda High Commission in the UK will also be holding a Commemoration Service at Southwark Cathedral on the 7th of April in remembrance inviting all Rwandans and friends of Rwanda to join us for the event
For more information on the Commemoration Service to be held in London, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org