By Louise Mushikiwabo*
Tuesday, we launched Kwibuka20 and embarked on a journey of remembrance in this milestone year for Rwanda. We seek Kwibuka, to remember, in order to reflect together on the lives we lost as well as what our country and our people have been through.
In the last twenty years, Rwandans have experienced pain and challenges, but we have also seen progress and opportunity. More crucially, citizens and leaders have worked hard to solidly set this country on a foundation of lasting peace and prosperity, even as we continue to make modest contribution to stability on the continent and in the world.
Yet we are keenly aware of the hurdles and challenges as well as the length of the road ahead. Effective nation building is no easy task; a genocide legacy makes it much harder.
So as we look back, we also seek to remember, as a nation, our vision of a better future for all Rwandans and what we need to do to achieve this goal.
From today, activities for the twentieth commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi will formally commence.
We also launch the website, Kwibuka.rw, a resource designed to enable anyone, anywhere in the world, to engage in commemoration-related activities and organise their own events.
Because, as we turn our attention to the twentieth commemoration, we invite the world to remember with us.
We do so not to inspire pity or guilt, but rather because the lessons of 1994 have resonance far beyond Rwanda’s borders. As we start this year of remembrance, the 20th time, Rwandan sons and daughters are embarking on two separate missions to keep peace on the continent.
We believe this commemoration can prompt a global discussion that addresses this question: if the international community had at its disposal – as it did in 1994 –- the information and capacity to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe, would it act differently today?
This is a timely and important question, especially in light of the many conflicts that currently beset this continent and the world.
It is incumbent upon us all to recall truthfully the events of 1994.
It is a sad fact that every genocide attracts a small but vocal cohort of people who will seek to deny, negate or diminish the circumstances of the tragedy. In the social media age, these individuals are able to create a disproportionate amount of noise and create confusion and doubt – even among people of good will. This is true of the Holocaust; it is true of Bosnia; it is true of Rwanda.
We must therefore redouble efforts to bring historical clarity to bear. We must remain vigilant in defence of the truth because to do otherwise would dishonour the memory of those who perished and utterly fail our obligations to those who survived. Importantly, too, it would relieve the world of its duty to reckon squarely with the lessons of history.
Over the past two decades, Rwandans have worked tirelessly to rebuild our nation from the ground up. We sincerely thank Friends and Partners, who have been with us all the way.
Up to 3.5 million refugees have returned home to join that nation building effort.
We have placed individual and collective dignity – what we call in Kinyarwanda Agaciro – at the heart of our endeavours.
This spirit of Agaciro has inspired us to work together, village by village, to improve the social and economic conditions of our country, and to provide opportunities for our citizens that would have seemed unimaginable a generation ago.
At the same time, we have pursued the path of reconciliation because we knew we couldn’t survive as a society torn apart by its history.
We understood the need to find ways to work and live together in pursuit of shared goals and with a unifying sense of what it means to be Rwandan.
We have made progress, but great challenges remain.
Our work of national reconstruction is ongoing. We have much more to do to build a middle-income nation that offers its citizens more and greater opportunities.
Kwibuka20 is a time to join in solemn remembrance, to reflect on the past twenty years, and to turn our attention to the challenges that lie ahead.
It is a time to recommit ourselves to the simple but powerful idea: Never Again. Not just for Rwanda, but for the world.
But for Never Again to be a reality – and not just words – Never Forget must also be our creed.
We must never forget what happened here, and why. We must never forget how the world stood by, capable of intervening to prevent or reduce the slaughter, but unwilling to do so. We must never forget the million lives lost, the countless lives destroyed.
In remembering we find powerful inspiration to build a strong, hopeful society capable of resisting the re-emergence of state-sponsored hatred, pernicious foreign influence and violence that all but destroyed us twenty years ago.
We cannot escape the past, and we should not try. We are bound to our history but, with honest and compassionate reflection, we are not bound to repeat it. In fact, it is only in memory can we find the seeds of renewal.
*This is part of remarks at the launch of the 20th Genocide anniversary activities yesterday at the Kigali Memorial Centre.