Article written

  • on 27.01.2012
  • at 06:16 PM
  • by Randa Ghazy

Remembering the Rwandan genocide 0

Six years ago, the UN General Assembly designated January 27 as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In addition to honoring the victims of the Nazi era, the UN member state are supposed to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.

Quite interestingly, the Italian branch of a non profit association named GARIWO, which plants trees every year to commemorate those who have helped the victims of persecution, decided to commemorate the Shoah victims by organizing a conference with Yolande Mukagasana and her hutu rescuer Jacqueline Mukanosera. It was also a chance to commemorate the Rwandan victims of the 1994 genocide.

What impresses most about Yolande Mukagasana, besides having been a candidate for the 2011 Nobel Prize, is the special relationship that developed between the two women despite their ethnic diversity. After the end of the genocide Jacqueline herself became a victim as all moderate hutus were being executed by decapitation for helping the Tutsis.

During the conference with some high school students, the two women described the dramatic moments in which Yolande was being chased by Hutus and her whole family was massacred.

They also tackled delicate issues such as negationism.

Yolande said that the first negationist of the Rwandan genocide was then-French president Mitterrand and that the most dangerous negationists are now in Europe, US, Canada, where they write essays and become popular. On the other hand, Rwanda’s Genocide Law criminalizes what it calls “creating confusion aiming at negating the genocide which occurred. . .” (Article 3(2)).

Here is what Yolande thinks about commemoration and about the recent judicial developments regarding the event that was presented to have triggered the massive killings in Rwanda in 1994: the shooting-down of the Falcon-50 jet carrying then-Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, then-Burundian President Cyprien Ntaryamira, and ten others on the evening of April 6 of that year .

After 16 years of a harsh debate, President Kagamé and the Rwandan Popular Front have been recently cleared of any part in the assassination of Habyarimana. What relevance do you attribute to this conclusion?

First let me talk about the sorrow that these false charges provoked in me. Those who were supporting such charges knew they were lying, because the French Captain Barille was there, in Rwanda, when the plane was shot down. The French took a black box whatsoever and showed it on the French TV (France 2) pretending it was from that plane. They voluntarily decided to disinform, not to say the truth. The aim was depicting victims as tormentors. For us Kagame and the Rwandan Popular Front were the heroes who stopped the genocide. Therefore by saying that they were responsible of the shooting down of that plane, they were trying to depict Kagame and his fellows as responsible of the genocide. France has always supported genocidaires, and today all Rwandans are surprised that France didn’t try to repress the “voice” of justice, letting the judge go ahead.. Rather than being surprised that Kagame was cleared of that assassionation we are surprised that France didn’t stop the judge. French and Europeans, on the other hand, should be surprised of the fact that France is contradicting itself. It is very sad for Europe to undergo passively such a disinformation, as many wrong things have been done by Europeans and the United Nations because of that false information.

Given the role of the West in the internal divisions of Rwanda, what are your feelings towards Europe and Belgium, the country that gave you a second citizenship?

A distinction has to be made between Belgium and Belgians. This is something I was not able to do immediately after the genocide. When I first went to live in Belgium, I could not accept the idea that Belgians were normal people. To me they were all killers, just like the French. It took long time to understand the difference between people and the actions of their government. These destructive feelings changed after settling in Belgium and realizing that many Belgians and French were supporting my fight and this changed me a lot.

How can the duty of remembrance, which is painful as it re-opens old wounds, be reconciled with the reconstruction process of a Rwandan nation?

Remembrance is more than important, you have to understand the difference between memories and remembrance. Memories can destroy you, while remembrance rebuilds things. Not only does it rebuild victims’ lives, but also human generations’. This commemoration process should also include “the Righteous”, those who rescued the victims, as they are a role model for new generations.

What kind of role did survivors play in such a reconstruction process?

I think that without the survivors the real story of massacres would have not become public. Survivors go beyond their own forces for the sake of rebuilding the country. However it is sad to realize that they are left alone by the rest of the world. In my opinion leaving them alone is equal to deny the genocide and the pain it caused.

By Randa Ghazy – Afronline

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi