Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The Future of Rwanda Depends on Reconciliation and Dialogue Between Former Murdurers and their Victims

The following is the English version of the speech that Mr. Karel De Gucht, the Belgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivered on the 15th Anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide at Woluwe Saint-Pierre, Belgium. The speech has been translated into English from its original French version.

Only the French version of the speech shall prevail.

Mr. Karel De Gucht's speech on the 15th Anniversary of the Rwandan genocide .
Woluwe-Saint-Pierre
April 07, 2009

Mr. the Chief of Staff,
Mr. the Mayor,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Throughout this week the whole world is behind Rwandans to remember with them the 1994 genocide. Knowing how this horrible event marked the Belgians, my Rwandan colleague Museminali had invited me to the ceremonies that are being held in Nyanza , Rwanda . Unfortunately I could not go there and I absolutely wished to join you all today here in Woluwe-Saint-Pierre.

We are here in the heart of Europe but our thoughts are six thousand miles away, in the heart of Africa , with all Rwandans and all those survivors or families of victims, who now commemorate the 15th anniversary the 1994 genocide. My thoughts also go to the families of our fallen soldiers in this bloody tragedy.

15 years later, we still hear some unpleasant assertions here and there, assertions that may make one feel uncomfortable. "Did all that take place? "Is it really possible that things happened that way? "The truth may not be elsewhere?"

It is exactly because of such questions that it is imperative that we remember. The debate about the responsibilities of some people and others in the Rwandan genocide will probably never get completely closed. New facts will inevitably continue to fuel the debate. Later on, we will assist to exchanges of strong views on compensations made or to be made and discussions on justice to render or how justice is to be rendered. These issues will keep the debate alive for so many years. Such exchanges are necessary and even salutary, I would say. But it is important to avoid any tunnel visions. We need to focus on those hundreds of thousands of men, women and children wiped out in 1994, killed by the murderous madness of men. This multitude of innocent victims massacred because of their ethnicity or because of their refusal to distinguish Hutus and Tutsis. That million of people who were there but since 1994 are no longer there. Forgetting those victims, or worse, denying their disappearance, it is an insult to their memory.

I know that all Rwandans, be they here or scattered worldwide, do not necessarily feel welcomed in the ceremonies of remembrance organized by the Rwandan authorities during the week. The reasons are many and some are quite understandable. But in my message addressed today in priority to all Rwandans, I just want to say that the time is not to argue but to only remember all the victims. This time is not for division but for rallying the "never again!” slogan.

Indeed, it is important to commemorate the painful past to avoid repeating it but also because a country that forgets its history may build its future on sand. In Rwanda more than anywhere else, this is particularly important because victims and perpetrators come from the same country and the future of the latter can only be successful if the yesterday opponents, former murdurers and their victims, accepted the very idea of reconciliation and dialogue.

It is not easy because it requires transcending hatred, bitterness and feelings of injustice and neglect. To carry out this difficult task, Rwandans can count on any Belgian assistance.

But they will have to mostly rely on themselves.

Belgium will continue to support Rwanda in full awareness that this support will only be meaningful if the Rwandans themselves come to heal their wounds by consensus solutions, courageous, realistic and ambitious. This is a sine qua non condition for their country to regain the development path and rebuild. This is also imperative for the entire African Great Lakes region to breathe and turn the final page of violence.

Thank you for your attention.

Related Materials:
US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice Remarks on Remembrance of Rwandan Genocide

United States Remembers 1994 Rwandan Genocide

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