Remarks by Minister of State in Charge of Cooperation, Eugene-Richard Gasana, at the 22nd Commemoration of the Genocide Against the Tutsi

Annual commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide Against the Tutsi in RwandaYour Excellency Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations and Madam;

Your Excellency Mogens Lykketoft, President of the UN General Assembly and Madam,

Dear Malcom Hoenlein, Nelly and Frida,

Dear my sister Pauletta,

I also recognize the DSG,

Excellencies, Permanent Representatives to the UN;

Dear compatriots and friends of Rwanda;

Ladies and Gentlemen;

Let me express my gratitude to the UN Department of Public Information for partnering with us to organize this annual event. I wish to particularly pay tribute to the UN Secretary-General for his continued support which will come a bit later for his continued support.

Each year we gather to remember the tragedy that left over 1 million Rwandans dead, killed for the “sin” of being a “Tutsi” and those slaughtered for opposing the killings of innocent women, men, and children. For 100 dark days, 10,000 people were brutally massacred on a daily basis, in full view of the international community.

22 years later, Rwandans are still mourning those we lost. It has been a difficult period for all of us, especially the survivors.  I want to thank all of you, on behalf of my Government and my fellow Rwandans, for your presence here today in supporting the Genocide Survivors, as we remember and pay tribute to the victims.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Honouring those who lost their lives has been smeared by those who indulge in genocide denial. Those who drive people to deny, trivialize, and even distort the figures of the killings. The latter continues to play out to this day, when 800,000 killings are cited, instead of 1 million. Another tactic used is to deflect attention and for perpetrators to rebrand themselves as heroes and not villains.

There are those claim that what happened in 1994 was not a genocide but a war. This attempt as we saw it after the Holocaust, is to seek to nullify, downplay and revise the perpetrators role.

There is also the proliferation of writings aimed at denying or trivializing the genocide, claiming freedom of speech but in reality, these are sheer expressions of hatred that attempt to incite people to overthrow the Rwandan Government and commit a second genocide.

Also with the rise of social media, the denialists have obtained another weapon, which allows anyone to pose as an expert. Such contributions are often a disguise for well-orchestrated campaigns of disinformation. You all know that it’s a tendency in today’s modern world that people will tend to believe those who shout loudest and this often include the most poorly informed and, more dangerously, those with a political agenda that underplays what they know to be false.

I am baffled that anyone can deny the numerous horrific stories that Rwandans have and I ask you to pause and reflect from the testimonies you just heard. Ms. Frida’s courage to come here today and recount all those painful memories is because she wants us to never forget. She is pleading with us, as many other survivors have done before her, to do what we can to guarantee “it never happens again.” She understands and still lives the pain first hand.

Ms. Nelly testimony reflects the resilience of Rwandans and their quest for a common goal of rebuilding a new united Rwanda. But constant hindrances remain, ranging from genocide ideology to wounds of genocide, ethnic based stereotypes. We must continue to work towards reconstructing the social fabric that has been broken.

Excellency, Ladies and Gentlemen

Nelly and Frida’s testimonies are two moving accounts of humanity and resilience. Can you imagine being given the tasks of uniting such a multidimensional, complicated society? This is a perfect transition and insight into our President- Paul Kagame’s dedication to bringing peace and stability to Rwanda for we are all RWANDAN. He cultivates a culture where there is no Tutsi or Hutu or Twa. We are ONE.  One Rwanda. It is because of President Kagame why Nelly and Frida and many others including myself are able to tell our stories and live normal contented lives. Our gratitude to him is seen time and time again in overwhelming wish to keep him as our leader.

We Rwandans realized that he was and still is the only one who could mend the social fabric of our so savagely torn society while still having to develop a nation. President Kagame had to be gentle, intuitive locally and still be forceful and smart globally! As we all know Rwanda is a small landlocked country with very limited resources. After the genocide we needed a sustainable economy, quite frankly we just needed an economy and again President Paul Kagame did that for us.

I am here carrying his vision. When H.E President Paul Kagame, pronounced “never again should a genocide happen,” it was not only for Rwanda but for all of humanity. That is why, we have committed to actively participate in the maintenance of peace and security around the world by deploying peacekeepers to protect civilians from massacres. Our responsibility to protect has led us to be one of the top troop and police contributing countries to peacekeeping.

Ladies and Gentleman,

At a time when survivors’ wounds are still fresh, and many still look for the remains of their loved ones, we need an international community that is a partner and not a bystander! An international community that is willing to accompany us on this long and treacherous road of mending the hearts of those broken, and in our concerted and continuous efforts in reconciling, healing and rebuilding our nation.

A loud action in fighting genocide ideology would be for the UN senior officials and many of you here in the room today to reflect on the truth of what happened in 1994, particularly by using the correct terminology that is a “Genocide Against the Tutsi”. The terminology of “Rwandan genocide” or “Genocide in Rwanda”, has become a breeding ground for deniers of all kind, who argue that even the UN didn’t recognize any genocide against the Tutsi, to which it preferred genocide against all Rwandans, as such. Let’s call spade a spade, it was the Genocide Against the Tutsi.

This leads me to acknowledge the support of the Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. Without fail during my tenure, the SG has never missed a commemoration. His support was certainly not just rhetoric; in his capacity as SG, he was rigorously committed to “Never Again”. In 2014 for the 20 year memorial, he journeyed to Kigali to attend services.  We were extremely appreciated. The SG embodies the phrase action speaks louder than words. As he wraps up his tenure, I want to publicly acknowledge H.E Ban Ki Moon’s accomplishments, feats, efforts and leadership that have moved mountains and our hearts.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I conclude by challenging all of you to be on guard for any attempts to suppress, distort or temper with the facts of our history. You should also fight any speech having to do with genocide ideology or genocide denial. From our bitter experience, we know that laws and speeches alone do not prevent injury, protect the vulnerable, or punish perpetrators. Constant vigilance and decisive action are needed to achieve our resolve to condemn and counter genocide ideology and genocide denial in order to prevent reoccurrence.

For Rwandans in the room with us today, always remember that despite what happened, we were able to get out of ashes to create one of the most secure countries across the globe where safety has bred a ground for fast development. We are a new Rwanda, and the spirit of Rwanda will never die. We have a leadership that believes in unity. It is paramount that this level of safety, peace and development be maintained, but it remains everyone’s responsibility, including the international community, to denounce anyone who would act negatively to take our country back to the dark days.

I thank you.