Today, as every year, we gather together to remember the Genocide against the Tutsi.
This may be the 27th time we have marked commemoration. There are always reminders of what is at stake. New mass graves are regularly discovered. Many perpetrators still roam free.
But we cannot allow the weight of our history to crush us.
Even in the midst of constant pressures and distractions, Rwanda today is unquestionably more united and forward-looking than ever before.
That is why all efforts to divide and divert us have failed, and will continue to fail.
Kwibuka challenges us to reflect on the context of the present moment, as well as the cumulative history that has led us here.
Rwanda may not yet be wealthy or fully healthy. But we also know how to deal with our problems. Rwandans are resilient, and we are full of purpose and hope.
The immensity of what has been achieved is almost miraculous. The results are attested to by Rwandans, and indeed indisputable.
First, there are the tangible signs, things that we can see and feel.
New buildings and roads. Better hospitals and health centres. Water and electricity services, where they never existed before. Visitors flocking to see Rwanda’s unique wildlife and enjoy our hospitality.
But the intangible transformations which have taken place in the hearts and minds of our people are even more important. They allow progress to be sustained from generation to generation.
Our unity and nationhood, which continues to grow.
The Rwandans of today have gained a lot, which means we have something precious to defend. This requires constant vigilance, along with a commitment to introspection and honesty.
I know for certain that Rwandans will always be ready to protect what we have built, without hesitation or apology.
Right to use all legitimate & lawful means
Like every country, Rwanda has the right to use all legitimate and lawful means to counter attacks on our people — no question about it — and on the principles of our Constitution.
Whenever possible, we bring those who threaten our country’s peace and security to justice. The rule of law is not up for debate. In fact, there are several trials underway in our courts, involving various violent armed groups.
Rwandans believe that our country cannot afford to allow such dangerous games against our people to be played on our territory, ever again. When the line into violence is crossed, there is also a remedy for that.
Disgraced former officials, motivated by petty resentments, have spent years cultivating influential foreign gatekeepers with a flimsy campaign of lies.
My friends, you can tell any lie about me; you are free to do so. You can pile up tons of lies; it won’t change me, absolutely not. It won’t change this country to be what you want it to be. It doesn’t matter how many lies. That I can promise you.
Let me tell you this: We will be happy to be criticised for doing what we have to do, and believe that we have to do, against these acts against us.
Are these really the people who represent the universal values we all claim to espouse? It is outright wrong. It’s wrong. It can’t be otherwise. We are left wondering how many bodies there have to be before we are seen as having the right to take appropriate action.
Recently, a commission of historians appointed by the French government released a detailed report after reading official archives that had remained secret.
The report shows that President Mitterrand and his closest advisers knew that a genocide against Tutsi was being planned by their allies in Rwanda. Despite that knowledge, the president decided to continue supporting them, because he believed this was necessary for France’s geopolitical position. Rwandan lives were just pawns in geopolitical games.
We welcome this report because it marks an important step toward a common understanding of what took place. It also marks a change, it shows the desire, even for leaders in France, to move forward with a good understanding of what happened, and we welcome this. We welcome this. We are going to have the report presented to us; I have been informed about it. It is a good thing.
History was falsified by promoting the lie of the so-called double genocide, including with the Mapping Report. Fraudulent court cases were launched in Europe against our officers and officials. Genocide suspects were granted safe haven, and Rwanda’s extradition requests refused.
Well-known publishers release books accusing the RPF itself of having masterminded the genocide in order to take power. What is even more disturbing, is that too many people who know better prefer to stay out of it by keeping quiet.
A few years ago, a country, I remember, issued a statement to mark the commemoration of the Genocide. On this day we can get a statement of solidarity, or not. If you don’t want to send us a statement of solidarity, we don’t complain, really we won’t complain. But a country sent us a statement of solidarity, supposedly, but then there were more chapters about human rights violations and governance, in the same solidarity message.
So I took time and wrote a back and just made one simple request. I said, you know, this day, the 7th of April, is a commemoration day. And it’s just one day in the 365 days of the year. Just one.
So I asked them, can’t you spare us just this one day? And for the remaining number of days, 364, you can write anything you want. You can abuse us, insult us anyway you want for the rest the year. But spare us this one.
It hasn’t happened again.
For us in Rwanda, we are not being held back. We move forward.
And one of them is an African country that we shall always be proud to call a good friend, represented by a man I remember, called Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria. Nigeria stood out and said no. There is a problem and we must call it what it is. Professor Gambari was there, and we shall always be proud of Nigeria.
Then there was the Czech Republic, there was New Zealand. Counties you wouldn’t think about first. we will always be indebted and thankful to some of these people across the world.
Thank you very much.
Editor’s note: a heavily edited Address by President Paul Kagame | Kwibuka27