Commemoration on 25th Anniversary of Genocide Against Rwanda's Tutsis

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On the 25th anniversary of the Genocide Against Rwanda’s Tutsis, the Guarini Institute for Public Affairs in collaboration with Ibuka Italia hosted an event on April 7 at John Cabot University to commemorate the tragedy under the slogan, “Remember, Unite and Renew.”

Ibuka Italia is a non-profit organization that aims to keep alive the memory of the victims of the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.

Commemoration of Rwandan Genocide at John Cabot University

Commemoration of Rwandan Genocide at John Cabot University

The memorial event opened with speaker Emanuela Del Re, Italian Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. Del Re briefly touched on the relevance of the commemoration and the importance of building the future upon it. She remarked that the social dynamics that led to genocide, including misunderstanding, intolerance, and exclusion are still prevalent today. Unfortunately, in Rwanda, the discrimination and hatred that was stirred up resulted in the extermination of thousands of every day from April 7 to July 4, 1994. At the end of the genocide, about a million people were dead. The president of the Rwandan in diaspora in Italy, Beatà Ntamanyoma briefly echoed that hatred fueled the genocide.

According to Professor Federigo Argentieri, Director of the Guarini Institute, the United Nations and member states failed in the case of Rwanda. Their failure was twofold – they did not prevent the genocide from occurring, nor did they engage in cooperative efforts to stop it. Ultimately, they turned a blind eye to the events that happened, and they left no room for an open discussion on the matter. In addition, Professor Argentieri said that the world had a responsibility to defend Rwanda and accept the fault of the genocide. He concluded by relating the genocide to perfidy, meaning that it was a deceitful act on the part of the French government to extend their power over Rwanda. Although the US could intervene, it was reluctant and withdrew its support from Rwanda. The reason is that the US failed to end the conflict of Somalia in 1993 and pledged not to intervene in any crises in Africa.

Following Argentieri, Annalisa Manta of UNRIC Italia (the United Nations Regional Information Centre for Western Europe) reflected on the genocide by giving insights on how to ensure that past mistakes do not repeat themselves. In doing so, she advocated that there is a need for tolerance, mutual respect, and kindness to combat the violence, racism, and xenophobia that exist in the world today.

Commemoration of Rwandan Genocide at John Cabot University

Commemoration of Genocide Against Rwanda’s Tutsis at John Cabot University

Professor Lyal S. Sunga shared his experience as special investigator for the UN Security Council’s Commission of Experts on Rwanda in the months following the end of the genocide in 1994. For him, and probably for most survivors, he said, the genocide 25 years ago “still feels like yesterday”. He acknowledged the failure of the UN, but pointed out that UN member States lacked the political will to act through the UN to stop the massacres. Sunga recalled the words of Paul Kagame, then commander of the Rwandan Patriotic Front rebel movement and current President of the country that: ‘‘Rwanda has learned not to have too much faith in the United Nations.” The Commission of Experts on Rwanda found that the genocide and associated violations that took the lives of between half a million and a million mainly Tutsi civilians was premeditated, meticulously planned, highly organized and ruthlessly carried by extremist Hutus mainly against Tutsi civilians and politically moderate Hutus. Sunga recounted his return in 2015 to Rwanda, including to one of the massacre sites he visited in 1994, also profiled in an article in The Guardian newspaper, and remains heartened and hopeful for Rwanda’s future in the light of Rwanda’s measures taken to ensure justice, reconciliation, reconstruction and development in partnership with the international community.

The second testimony was by genocide survivor Angelique Rutayisire, from a small village in the south of Rwanda. She and her father were the sole survivors out of a family of seven. In her testimony, she recalled her experience with generous Hutu families who sheltered her and ultimately saved her life. Throughout Rwanda, some Hutus provided refuge for other Tutsis whom they knew before the massacre and luckily, Angelique was one of them. The most important lesson that Angelique has for survivors is that they should hold on to their faith, as she has – it is the only way possible to cure such emotional trauma. In her words, “If I am healed, through faith, no matter what the pain, the healing of all survivors is possible.”

In conclusion, Honorine Mujyambere, former President of Ibuka Italia confirmed the hope that other speakers expressed – including the need to foster an environment of support for the survivors and all Rwandans.

(Daniel Kyei Brobbey, Edoardo Guerzoni, Jaimie Smith, Theodora Terracina)