H.E. Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza, Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Member of Cabinet of the Government of Rwanda, at the 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi

Your Excellency Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations,
Your Excellency Vice President of the United Nations General Assembly,
Excellencies, Permanent Representatives to the UN,
Dear Survivors, compatriots, and friends of Rwanda,

On behalf of the people and the Government of Rwanda, I want to thank you all for joining us at this 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi. Your presence means a lot to Rwanda. It is a mark of your respect for the dignity of the victims and the resilience of the survivors. I take this opportunity to thank the Department of Public Information for their cooperation in organising this annual commemoration.

Ladies and Gentlemen;

The purpose of the annual commemoration at the United Nations is to continue to raise awareness of the international community about our collective responsibility to prevent Genocide from happening anywhere in the world. We do so by honouring the memory of the victims; by renewing our resolve to fight the Genocide ideology and by sharing with the world what we have done in Rwanda to make “Never Again” a reality.

The annual commemoration also provides us with an opportunity to reflect on lessons learnt since the failure of the international community to prevent and stop the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The theme for this year’s commemoration; “Remember the Genocide against the Tutsi – Fight Genocide Ideology – Build on Our Progress,” reminds us that the Genocide against the Tutsi was the result of a well-organised plan and ideology to exterminate all Tutsi. It also reminds us that the ideology didn’t stop with the end of the Genocide. Indeed, the denial, alteration, and distortion of the facts of Genocide are all well-known and documented mechanisms used by Genocide ideologues.

One of the mechanisms used by Genocide deniers is the use of deliberately confusing language. Whenever we refer to the Genocide against the Tutsi, historical clarity and the use of correct words are of critical importance. What we commemorate today is neither the Rwanda Genocide nor the 1994 Genocide. It is the Genocide against the Tutsi. Any other reference is inaccurate, misleading and wrong. Let us remember that the former International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda established by this very body concluded in its judgment on 2nd September 1998 that; “Genocide was, indeed, committed in Rwanda against the Tutsi as a group.”

Ladies and Gentlemen,

We all know that the Genocide against the Tutsi was not inevitable yet it happened. The question to reflect on today is “Why?” Why those who had the responsibility and capability to prevent or stop it didn’t act? Why those in positions of influence and authority at the time, made the wrong decisions? Many elaborate explanations have been suggested to explain the failure of the international community to act and stop the Genocide against the Tutsi. The truth is much simpler; those who were invested by the Charter of the United Nations with the duty and responsibility to prevent and stop the Genocide against the Tutsi did not consider that the lives of those targeted mattered sufficiently to warrant their protection. If faced with a similar situation today, will they act differently? We can only hope so, and it is this hope that lessons have been learnt from our tragic History that informs our annual commemoration at the United Nations.

We pay special tribute to the Ghanaian contingent of peacekeepers in Rwanda in 1994 and to the late Captain Mbaye Diagne from Senegal. These fellow Africans refused the orders of the then UN leadership in New York to evacuate with the rest of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda and thus to abandon the victims to their fate. To them, the lives of those targeted mattered. These gallant sons and daughters of Africa demonstrated courage, empathy and a sense of responsibility that many others lacked.

In Rwanda, we have learned hard lessons from our tragic history. We have learned that Genocide ideology strives where its manifestations and expressions are tolerated. We have learned that hatred knows no borders. It is a poison that spreads where human rights violations are widespread with no accountability.

We also learnt that the most effective defense against Genocide ideology is our cohesion as a people and it is this lesson that informed our choices for unity, reconciliation and a governance system centered on the wellbeing and dignity of all Rwandans.

Rwanda today offers a story of hope; how a country and its people can stand strong in the face of adversity and together build a new and united nation. Through investing in our people and building institutions, we have delivered peace, security, opportunity and, more importantly, dignity for all Rwandans.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Let me conclude by thanking all of you again for your presence at the 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi. I thank in particular the survivors. Your strength and resilience remains a source of inspiration.

We also remain forever indebted to the Rwanda Defense Forces – men and women who, under the command of His Excellency President Paul Kagame, single-handedly stopped the Genocide against the Tutsis in July 1994. Without them, there wouldn’t be survivors like Sonia to tell their story.

I thank you.

(A moment of reflection at the 23rd Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi at the United Nations.)


Statement by H.E. Ambassador Valentine Rugwabiza, Permanent Representative and Member of Cabinet, at the Security Council Debate on the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT)

Thank you, Mr. President.

At the outset, let me congratulate the delegation of Spain through you Mr. President for your assumption of the Presidency of the Security Council for the month of December. Let me also congratulate the Delegation of Senegal for an exceptional work done during its Presidency in the month of November.

I thank Judges Theodor Meron, President of the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, and Carmel Agius, President of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, as well as Serge Brammertz, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and the Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals, as well as the other previous speakers for their respective briefings and statements.

Mr. President,

As we reflect on the activities of the Mechanism of the International Tribunals, let me reiterate our belief that despite serious shortcomings, the ICTR produced a substantial body of jurisprudence, including definitions of the crime of Genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, rape as weapon of war; as well as forms of responsibility, such as superior responsibility.

The Court also went further to conclude in its judicial notice on 2 September 1998 that “Genocide was, indeed, committed in Rwanda against the Tutsi as a group” as well as through Appeal Chamber on 16th June 2006 that it is a “fact of common knowledge” that “[between 6 April and 17 July 1994, there was a Genocide in Rwanda against the Tutsi ethnic group”; and that “[there is no reasonable basis for anyone to dispute that, during 1994, there was a campaign of mass killing intended to destroy, in whole or at least in very large part, Rwanda’s Tutsi population.”

We believe that these were legal doctrines and tests for assessing components of Genocide crime, including the prosecution of 93 individuals, mainly the masterminds; thus standing as an important contribution to the post-Genocide justice, reconciliation and healing in Rwanda.

Despite this however, let me express our concern at ongoing attempts by Genocide perpetrators and their henchmen in the names of scholars, media and politicians to deny the occurrence of the 1994 Genocide committed against the Tutsi; to distort facts and; attempt to rewrite its history. As such actions continue to be an ugly shared reality, we call upon UN member states, individuals, institutions and the broader international community to denounce on unequivocal terms such attempts to deny or trivialize Acts of Genocide, as well as to minimize its scale. We also call upon UN member states, individuals, institutions and the broader international community to hold to account all those who indulge or support Genocide deniers or revisionists.

It is also regrettable that none of the remaining ICTR indicted fugitives have been arrested in the last five years; in addition to other suspects against whom there are ample and indisputable evidence.  We once again call all member states, especially those harboring Genocide fugitives, to honor their obligations to the UN Charter, and the Genocide Convention to arrest, put to trial all suspects in accordance with relevant Security Council resolutions, or extradite them to where they can be tried, including in Rwanda. Anything short of that raises serious questions on the credibility of their stated commitment to international justice.

We are equally concerned by the worrying pattern of early releases of convicted Genocide masterminds. The observed pattern of reducing sentences of Genocide convicts on appeal is alarming.

We commend recent efforts by Canada, Netherlands and U.S. for recent arrests and extradition to Rwanda and hope that more other countries will do so in respect of Genocide suspects residing in their territories. We also welcomed the prosecution and subsequent convictions of Octavian Ngenzi and Tito Barahira in Paris’ Cour d’Assises; as well as the recent confirmation through Appeal, of the sentence of Pascal Simbikangwa.

We regret that the status of progress in monitoring of cases referred to national courts outside Rwanda remains disappointing, while the procedure of two cases referred to Rwanda in 2012 and 2013 are well advanced. Last year, we noted with concern the decision by the French Prosecution to drop charges against Wenceslas Munyeshyaka, a decision that contradicts the nature and scale of the crimes committed in light of available evidence.

The crime of Genocide is imprescriptible and Rwanda will continue to legally pursue and seek answers from individuals, institutions and Governments for the allegations of Acts of commission and omission, without which the Genocide could have either been prevented or deterred expeditiously. At the very least, member states should refuse to grant Genocide perpetrators safe havens in their countries.

Mr. President,

Allow me to come back to the issue of ICTR archives, which is an important matter to the Government of Rwanda and its people.

While we have on many occasions and at different levels, expressed our view on the issue of the archives, and the urgent need for them to be relocated to Rwanda while remaining the property of the UN, we are concerned by the lack of engagement by stakeholders, as well as the unilateral decision to store the Genocide archives in a specific location without involving Rwanda. Location of these important pieces of the History of Rwanda cannot be decided merely on the basis of budgetary, logistical and administrative considerations.

Rwanda also wishes to clarify to this Council and put on record that a significant part of the documents, which compose today’s ICTR archives, were obtained from Rwanda and released as evidence in court and not for possession or archiving. They are legally the property of Rwanda and have yet to be returned to Rwanda.

The ICTR archives are the most comprehensive account of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. A piece of History that Rwanda will not stop demanding for the Genocide happened in Rwanda and that part of our History belongs to Rwanda. Should any party have concerns with our legitimate request, we are open to engaging in a candid conversation with the aim of addressing our longstanding demand.

In conclusion Mr. President, let me assure you of my country’s unwavering commitment to work with all member states and the UN to bring to justice all perpetrators, planners, deniers, and revisionists of the Genocide against the Tutsi who are still at large.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Statement by Charge d’Affaires, a.i, Jeanne d’Arc Byaje, at the informal dialogue on R2P

Thank you Moderator,

Excellencies, ladies and Gentlemen,

From the outset, I would like to thank Secretary-General for his annual Report on the Responsibility to Protect. Let me also take this opportunity to congratulate you Mr Chair, for your appointment as Special Advisor on the Responsibility to Protect.  We commend the work done by your predecessor Ms Jennifer Welsh, and it is our hope that you will capitalize on the current progress in mainstreaming R2P in the daily work of the United Nations.

Rwanda associates itself with the statement delivered by Netherlands on behalf of the Group of Friends of R2P

The eighth report of the Secretary takes stock of status of progress in implementation of R2P since the adoption of the World summit document in 2005, in global efforts to prevent genocide and mass atrocity crimes.

Looking back 11 years down the road, we agree with the Secretary General that although important strides were made both at the UN and the individual member states level, the Responsibility to Protect remains the source of contestation. Despite important conceptual progress and consensus built around R2P, implementation of the 2005 political commitment by member states, regional organizations and the UN itself has been woefully inadequate in the face of a number of current crises where populations face mass atrocity crimes

Claims about the status of R2P a new ‘norm’ of international conduct have been strongly resisted; and commission of mass atrocities are not only widespread, but reoccurring in many parts of the World. Today, responsibility to protect has more support in principle but is far from being put into practice.

We believe that action to prevent future genocide and mass atrocities involves broad areas of activity, including Preventing armed conflict, protecting civilians in armed conflict, ending impunity, ensuring early, and clear warning and taking swift and decisive action. The Kigali Principles that are now endorsed by 35 member states present a framework for effective protection of civilians in armed conflicts.

However, Prevention is better than protection. It is of utmost importance that governments, regional organizations and the international community focus their attention on addressing the underlying causes of conflict.

We believe that instead of spending time in conceptual and ideological debate, the international community should invest much in the development of strong institutions that establish the foundations of good governance based on the rule of law, democratic principles and values, and accountability to contribute  in  building societies resilient to atrocity crimes and contribute to the promotion and protection of Human Rights.

Regional and sub-regional organizations must also develop the capacity to streamline and implement their efforts to intervene when civilians are endangered, including the ability to recognize and disseminate the signs of impending or potential genocide.

Finally, we look forward to the recommendations from this interactive dialogue, including consideration of R2P as a formal agenda item by the General Assembly. Like other previous speakers, we are also encouraged by the growing number of countries who appointed the National Focal points on R2P; and we hope more would do so in the near future.

I thank you

Statement by DPR, Jeanne d’Arc Byaje, at the UN General Assembly High Level meeting on Human Rights

Let me join others in thanking the President of the General Assembly for convening this important debate to reflect on how to strategically move forward in ensuring full enjoyment of human rights and how this contributes to peace, security and development.

Allow me also to thank previous speakers, including the High-level delegates whose invaluable contributions enabled us to share useful lessons. Today’s high-level debate is indeed of crucial importance if we are to nurture stable and peaceful societies. In this respect, our views are in line with the concept note that clearly highlights the intrinsic nexus between Peace, Security and Development as key pre-requisites to the attainment and safeguarding of sustainable development.

This debate is therefore timely as we mark this triple milestone; the 70th anniversary of the creation of the UN, the 50th anniversary of the international human rights covenants as well as the 30th anniversary of the Declaration on the Right to Development. However, it is not enough to make this statement if abject poverty, serious human rights violations, deprivation and exclusion continue to be reported in many countries around the world while international responses appear to be inefficient.

We believe that respect for human rights, freedoms, and the rule of law are essential elements in fostering inclusive societies, which is one of the key pillars to warrant sustainable peace and development as outlined in the 2030 Agenda.

In this context, Rwanda reaffirms its strong commitment to the promotion and protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all our citizens and beyond and has vowed to address special needs of vulnerable groups namely children, youth, women, genocide survivors, people with disabilities and the elderly by putting in place inclusive, representative and responsive institutions.

For Rwanda to build a resilient state and a peaceful society sustainably from a failed state while ensuring that no one was left behind, the promotion and respect of human rights and of the socio economic wellbeing and capabilities of all citizens irrespective of class, gender, ethnic origin or religion emerged as an urgent imperative to embrace in the immediate aftermath of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.

Central to overcoming all hurdles associated with our tragic encounters were also accountability mechanisms put in place to tackle all inequalities depriving people from leading a dignified life. In addition, ensuring participation and empowering citizens to shape their development, monitor and review their progress enabled them to take informed decisions that impacted their lives positively. Finally, the development of appropriate mechanisms to build community capacity for citizens to identify, assess and assert their priorities in local development planning and to hold their leaders to account served as a corrective measure while engaging in on-going consultations related to peace and security was rather preventive.

This dual approach giving a platform to citizens was sustained through a strong commitment to the rule of law, human rights, transparency, participation, inclusion and democratic governance to foster unity and reconciliation and the promotion of social cohesion as well as of sound economic institutions that support the private, public, and civil-society sectors in a productive and balanced manner.

At the same time, we also put in place, as a matter of priority, legal and policy frameworks and institutional mechanisms to facilitate the process of gender equality and empowerment of women. These laws, policies and mechanisms are translated into projects and programs to make sure that both, our men and women, boys and girls benefit and enjoy their rights equally.

In that experience, we have learnt how inclusion of previously marginalized population, including women and youth has not only strengthened our governance structures, but also been essential in furthering reconciliation and promoting opportunities for positive change towards peace. In addition, inclusion has been our cornerstone strategy in building consensus and has led us to a common and shared vision of a prosperous and peaceful Rwanda.

We therefore believe that each legal and policy making process should put people at the center and make sure their human rights are respected and recognized regardless of their race, gender, status, country of origin among other things.

Like many others who shelter refugees, we are also alarmed by increasing acts of racial discrimination, violence and abuse, including those directed towards migrants, refugees, women and girls, but also men and children living in vulnerable humanitarian settings. After all, human lives matter before human rights, and when we talk of rights, we must ensure that lives are protected and preserved.

In closing, let me draw from our experience once again to commend initiated collaborations done at different levels through multi-stakeholders partnerships particularly between non state actors, national human rights institutions and our government that were instrumental in tracking down and empowering the marginalized to know their rights and to seek redress when they are violated.

I thank you


Statement by Minister of State in Charge of Cooperation, Eugene- Richard Gasana, at the High Level Meeting on implementing and endorsing the Kigali Principles

UN_Protection of Civilians_14President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft,

Honorable Ministers,

Our distinguished panelists,

Distinguished Delegates,

It is an honor to be with you today for this one-of-a-kind event that allows us to reaffirm our commitment to protecting civilians in armed conflict through the endorsement of the Kigali Principles.

I first would like to welcome my co-chair, H.E Bert Koenders. Foreign Affairs Minister of the Netherlands. Thank you very much for your commitment to these principles, from the active engagement of your Permanent Representative to your yourself Excellency. Your past experience leading the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali undoubtedly provide us with an important partner who grasps fully the essence of the Kigali Principles and its importance when we talk about bringing peacekeeping into the 21st Century.

We have a special opportunity today to shape the future of UN peacekeeping by adhering to 18 principles that hold our efforts to the highest standards as troop and police contributing countries, as peacekeepers, as mission leadership and as protection of civilian stakeholders. The failures of our past should not dictate our future but rather should inform us of what we can do better.

The 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda blatantly took the lives of over a million Rwandans and impressed upon us the conviction that we must take every measure necessary to secure the lives of civilians. This conviction coupled with our history fueled our desire to contribute to peacekeeping in a profound way. We currently have over 6,000 troops and police serving in numerous peacekeeping missions and we aspire to contribute even more.

Our troops and police live by the guiding words of these Kigali Principles. They receive extensive pre-deployment training on the protection of civilians, believe in identifying threats to civilians, are prepared to use force when necessary and consistent with the mandate, and possess an unwavering determination to deliver on their responsibility to thoroughly protect.

Almost a year after the inception of the Kigali Principles, we have troop and police contributing countries from different regions of the world endorsing them. I thank the following countries for their resolute commitment to protecting the lives of civilians: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Italy, Netherlands, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Uganda, and Uruguay whom have been with us since the very beginning, and the new endorsements by Austria, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Djibouti, Estonia, Finland, Ghana, Guinea, Ireland,  Malawi, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, Ukraine, the United States and Zambia.

Dear Colleagues,  

The reality is that conflicts are escalating in number and changing in nature at levels and speeds that are unprecedented. We must meet these challenges head on by adapting and modernizing our ways of old. This includes having robust and proactive peacekeeping that closes the gaps on what is asked of us to protect civilians and what we actually provide. What is most at stake is not our reputation or the legacy we intend to leave behind but rather the lives of those civilians that have involuntarily been absorbed in conflicts and wars that have taken their loved ones, endangered their lives and stolen their livelihood.

The report of the High-Level Independent Panel on Peace Operations and the subsequent report of the Secretary-General called for meeting the needs on the ground to proactively and effectively protect civilians. The Kigali Principles answer these calls and they seek accountability for the way forward. Just earlier this year, the Kigali Principles were included in the C-34 Report for the 2016 substantive session, a growing testament to their relevance.

But more can be done.

The UN, the body that brought us together in 1945 to secure peace and security for all generations to come, has an essential role to play in advancing the principles.

It can assist us in invoking the principles in all the areas in which they are vital to, from the pre-deployment training standards the UN enforces to the materialization of a rapid deployment component that can swiftly aid the UN when a crisis hits.

The Secretary-General’s endorsement of the principles can contribute to further institutionalize the principles, leading the charge towards a Secretariat that can deliver on operational standby and rapid deployment arrangements that meet at least the 30 day target for a traditional mission, and 90 day target for a complex mission.

The Kigali Principles can also enforce the numerous policies and frameworks the Office of Military Affairs and other similar departments are supplying to troop contributing countries to better guide their efforts on the ground.  As H.E. President Paul Kagame has poignantly stated, we must ensure that the “necessity to protect civilians does not get lost in ideological debates,” which are void of action and do nothing to save lives.

I therefore ask those member states present here today that have not endorsed the principles to deeply consider them and their contribution to peacekeeping. Lets commit to making a difference on the field and fulfill the implementation of the protection of civilian mandates we have been tasked with.  At very core of our efforts is one fundamental task: the protection of any and all civilians.

The way forward must be guided by a collective effort from each of us that strengthens our present peacekeeping efforts and sets the foundation for future pursuits of peace and security.

Dear Colleagues,

Today, we have the opportunity to write a narrative that matches our innate desire to save the lives of those civilians entangled in armed conflict. Ambassador Samantha Power has been writing the pages of this narrative, working fervently to secure the United States’ support for these principles. She has witnessed first hand the terrible plight civilians continue to endure and felt at the most profound levels the responsibility to do more to better protect the civilians when she went to the Central African Republic, to Mali and to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Her unrelenting leadership in advancing the protection of civilians has made us all reexamine our own contributions to peacekeeping and fortified the important role peacekeepers play in protecting civilians and keeping peace at the same time. Ambassador Power, thank you for your tireless efforts, your invaluable contribution to these principles does not go unnoticed.

I would also like to thank the experts that have worked day in and day out to seeing the materialization of these principles unfold. Thank you Gideon Maltz from the US Mission, my own team at the Mission from Col Vincent Nyakarundi to his successor , Lt. Col Raoul Bazatoha; and Col Nortbert Moerkens, and Eran Nagan from the Netherland Mission for all your hard work and through you  all the to other colleagues who have been involved in this process. You have been the impetus for the growing endorsement of these principles.

Dear Colleagues,

Le us leave here today with an even deeper conviction for saving lives and an equally profound understanding that what we choose to do or not does affect distant lands and unfamiliar faces that have far too often paid the highest cost in today’s conflicts. Join us in crafting a future that puts the lives of all civilians at the core of our efforts.