Genocide survivors infuriated by President Kikwete’s remarks

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Kigali: Genocide survivors have petitioned the Tanzanian parliament, UN Secretary General and US President Barak Obama – accusing Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete of being behind a plan to “exterminate us once and for all”.

Two groups, who are part of a wider platform representing the survivors of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis, have written separate letters demanding for “nothing less than an apology for the despicable utterances” by President Kikwete.

The genesis of the latest barrage of anger direct against President Kikwete arose following rare submission by the Tanzanian leader at the AU summit in Ethiopia, in which he called for direct talks between the Rwandan government and the FDLR rebels. It was during a closed door session of selected leaders concerned with the RDC crisis including Uganda, Rwanda, DRC itself. The UN chief Ban Ki-moon, who launched the initiative in February, was also in the room with other leaders.

Mr Kikwete reportedly submitted that since Kinshasa was in talks with the M23 rebels, then it was about time Kigali opened negotiations with the FDLR rebels, and Uganda does the same with its Congo-based rebel force, ADF. Gauging from the reaction of Rwanda’s foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo in media interviews after, President Kikwete’s declarations came as a total surprise. It will be the first that a foreign leader has suggested talks between Kigali and the militia group, held accountable for executing the genocide and fleeing the country.

And when it comes to the genocide survivors, the anger gets more viral and personal. President Kikwete’s “utterances… [are] …a miscarriage to the late Mwalimu Nyerere legacy for the unity and brotherhood of the Tanzanian peoples, and all African communities,” says the association of student survivors (AERG/GEARG), in their letter.

“In making his negationist statement, President Kikwete has not only dishonored Nyerere’s Vision but also dehumanized the Tanzanian peoples as unconditional accomplices to his genocide denial and revisionist comments.”

The letter adds: “He either has a short memory or he deliberately decided to ignore the most recent horrors of genocide victims whose remains trekked unforgettable routes through his river Kagera up to the their current resting place where over ten thousand souls are laid to rest in Kansesero and Lambu on the shores of lake Victoria. May God bless the Ugandan citizens, who unlike Kikwete, offered their humane hearts and resources to give those remain an honorable burial place.”

Reading from President Kikwete’s comments, they emerge as complete reversal of his country’s policy. President Kikwete has been to Rwanda several times during his 8-year tenure as Head of State, and previously as Foreign Affairs Minister.

On February 17, 2005, while in Rwanda, as Tanzania’s top diplomat, Kikwete toured the Gisozi genocide memorial site where some 300,000 victims are laid to rest. According to the memorial book at the facility, which is signed by all high profile leaders, Kikwete wrote what can be described as a powerful message.

He wrote: “It is horrifying, saddening, and pitiful too. Let this be a reminder once again for such abominable things to happen again. Let us say never again, and make sure it really doesn’t happen again.”

It is this statement above that is adding more fire into the tempers among survivors. The student organization writes in its letter: “We wonder whether a difference of about eight years has left President Kikwete in complete loss of memory of what he said at Gisozi. It is shameful that Kikwete can abuse the welcome accorded to him by Rwandans back in 2005, and the following year, as President, as well as the countless times he has visited.”

Another genocide survivors grouping, based in the US, has written directly to President Obama, who is scheduled to visit Tanzania later next month, as part of an Africa tour. “In 1994, when more than one million innocent Tutsi were brutally murdered, President Kikwete, then the Minister of Foreign Affairs in Tanzania did not speak up,” reads the letter.

“Though we welcome your upcoming visit to our beloved continent, we recommend you cancel your trip to Tanzania unless President Kikwete openly apologizes and disavows any relationship he might have with the FDLR.”

Click on either links below to access the letters:

1.    Association of Genocide Student Survivors and Alumni (AERG/GEARG) 

2.    Organizing committee, the 19th Commemoration of the Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda in the U.S.A.

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