Rwandan President Paul Kagame on Sunday called for the teaching of Genocide in schools so that those who were very young in 1994 or those born after will learn about the nefarious consequences of bad leadership, which led to the genocide in Rwanda.
In a televised speech to mark the 19th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in which more than one million people perished, President Kagame reiterated that remembrance of the Genocide victims is an obligation for every Rwandan.
It also falls on us, he noted, to teach and pass on that responsibility to the youth so that they, in turn, can pass it on to successive generations.
Sharing the country’s history, some of which has been tragic, will help prevent future evil, fight genocide ideology and anything that could draw the country back to the bad past we have left behind, according to the President.
“This is the reason our history must be taught in schools so that those who were very young in 1994 or those born after will learn about the nefarious consequences of bad leadership, which led to the genocide in Rwanda,” he said.
President Kagame attended ceremonies at Kigali Genocide Memorial in Gisozi and participated in the Walk to Remember championed by Peace and Love Proclaimers (PLP) and the National Commission for the Fight against Genocide (CNLG), held under the theme; “Remember, Honour and Rebuild.”
The President and several government officials later attended the night vigil at Amahoro National Stadium.
“We must therefore do everything possible to make sure that we write our own history, preserve the physical evidence of genocide, including memorial sites, so that they do not get lost, but become symbols of remembrance and prevention of genocide.”
Shortly before midday, the President and the First Lady, Jeannette Kagame, laid a wreath at the Gisozi memorial site, together with top officials in the government, and members of the diplomatic corps accredited to Rwanda.
The President proceeded with lighting the Flame of Hope at the memorial.
The Flame of Hope’s colour of yellowish flame mixed with a bit of grey smoke will be on for three months at the memorial as a sign of hope that life continues after the terrible Genocide against the Tutsi.
At midday, President Kagame posed for a group picture with all present at the memorial centre.
He also launched a newly-completed “Peace Room”, a reflection space that hosts documentation and an exhibition area to explain how Rwandans have been building peace after the Genocide.
The President spent a few minutes talking to people at the memorial, especially staff of the UK-based Aegis Trust, which created the centre and manages it in partnership with the City of Kigali.
He commended Rwandans for working in solidarity to build their country over the last 19 years since the Genocide, also urging the populace to keep striving for their unity.
The Head of State called on Rwandans to comfort those who lost loved ones, orphans, widows and “those completely without family” so that they are not overwhelmed by the immense sorrow that many of them face during the remembrance period.
“They need reassurance to give them the courage and confidence to carry on. Perpetrators of Genocide must also admit their crime and ask for forgiveness,” he said.
The President also warned Genocide deniers and appealed to countries harboring Genocide suspects to extradite or prosecute them.
“We appreciate that some countries have started to follow up and apprehend Genocide suspects in their territory, and some have even been repatriated to Rwanda. This, however, has come late even when these countries have known for a long time that they had an obligation to arrest those suspected of genocide and have them tried,” Kagame said.
‘Stop trivialising Genocide’
Understandably, prosecuting or extraditing suspects of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes is a duty to countries, and failure to do so constitutes a serious violation of international law.
But despite this international obligation, hundreds of Genocide suspects are still enjoying freedom in a number of European, African and North American countries.
So far, countries that have received more indictments from Rwanda include France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique.
“We shall continue to put all our efforts in fighting those who are bent on denying or trivialising Genocide, whether they are Rwandans or foreigners,” Kagame said.
Nor shall we tolerate those with intentions to propagate genocide ideology instead of working with fellow Rwandans to build our country, he added.
The President pledged that his government will remain at the service of survivors and give them all the support possible.
“When you leave the exhibition in the entire memorial, you keep wondering about what happened. So, you need a place to sit and reflect,” the manager of the Kigali memorial, Honoré Gatera, said as he described the newly completed “Peace Room.”
In the communities countrywide, the President’s broadcast speech was widely followed by the people, commemorated at the village level.
He called on everyone to uphold the value of dignity and self-reliance which is commonly known in Rwanda and Rwandan communities across the world as Agaciro.