Why Kwibuka matters to Nigerians

Date:

Christophe Bazivamo
In a few days, Rwanda will mark 30 years since the genocide against the Tutsi. “Kwibuka”, which means to remember, is an annual period of solemn reflection when we come together to honour the victims, unite in our collective grief and renew our commitment to continue to build a better future for Rwandans.

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This important act of preserving memory, and ensuring the accurate re-telling of history, matters to Rwandans. The international community played a part in the tragedy while the world watched it unfold. Every nation can benefit from reflecting on the lessons from this preventable genocide borne of division and hatred.

Thirty years ago, in 100 days over one million Tutsi were murdered just because they were Tutsi. Hutus who opposed the genocidal government were also killed. This ‘crime of crimes’ happened in plain sight. The international community was, at best, indifferent to the horrific violence, with some countries being complicit in the killings.

No one came to Rwanda’s aid. The slaughter was only halted when the Rwandan Patriotic Front took Kigali and defeated the genocidaires. The genocide showed what can happen when an ideology built on hatred is allowed to flourish unchecked by those with the power to intervene.

Although foreign governments and international institutions failed Rwanda in our greatest hour of need, there were many brave foreigners on the ground who made heroic contributions: For example, Mbaye Diagne, a Captain in the Senegalese Army who was part of the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda. During the Genocide, Capt. Diagne broke UN rules to carry out missions to save those in need, rescuing over 1,000 people before being killed. Rwanda posthumously awarded Capt. Diagne the Umurinzi honour – the Campaign Against Genocide Medal.”

Internationally, New Zealand, Nigeria and the Czech Republic used their positions on the UN Security Council to press for the institution to take action. Permanent Representative Colin Keating (New Zealand) and Chief Delegate Prof. Ibrahim Gambari (Nigeria) put forward separate resolutions calling for greater troop deployment and for the troops to be given a mandate to save civilians. Ambassador Karel Kovanda joined the calls for greater action and was also the first person to use the term genocide within the security council when describing what was happening. These few voices did what they could to raise the alarm with a world that was choosing not to listen.

Beyond remembering the individual stories, this significant commemoration provides an opportunity for the world to reflect on the lessons of the genocide and the battle to preserve the integrity of the historical accounts of it.

There has been a concerted effort to deny the genocide happened in the way we know it did. These genocide deniers use various tactics, ranging from questioning the numbers of victims – despite having no evidence to contradict the verified figures – to blaming the victims for causing the genocide. They even go as far as creating false equivalences by suggesting a double genocide took place.

These tactics are not new. They have been deployed by perpetrators and deniers of other genocides such as the Holocaust. But if we are not careful, this distortion of historical facts – supercharged by social media and AI tools now in the hands of deniers – could be deployed across the world turning true history into contested debate.

Rwanda’s history has shaped Rwandan shared identity – this is why the historical clarity about the genocide against the Tutsi is of national and international importance.

The memorials Rwanda maintains (four of which have been designated UNESCO world heritage sites) are vital to anchoring the truth, and truth is essential to reconciliation and renewal. The artefacts we preserve are our evidence, and the stories we tell are witness testimony.

Our collective memory also provides the world with a warning that the ideology which drove the genocide must not be allowed to flourish and spread ever again. This is unfortunately still happening today in different parts of the world.

How many times must we say ‘Never Again’ before it becomes real? We must learn from past atrocities and apply these lessons to prevent future tragedies.

Rwanda’s transformation, based on unity and reconciliation, offers hope. By investing in infrastructure, education, and women’s empowerment, Rwanda demonstrates the resilience that leads to sustainable development.

On this April 7 and beyond, we ask that Nigeria stand in solidarity with Rwanda. We ask that you do this to honour the memory of all Rwandans who lost their lives, and acknowledge Prof. Ibrahim Gambari and others who did their best to help during Rwanda’s darkest hour. And we ask for your solidarity in preserving the true account of Rwanda’s history so that the world can match the words ‘never again’ with tangible action to prevent history from repeating itself.

Christophe Bazivamo is Rwanda’s High Commissioner to Nigeria


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