Rwanda, this month marks 25 years since more than 800,000 Rwandans were massacred in a vicious, three-month killing spree by extremist Hutus.
This followed the shooting down of a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana, and his counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi – both Hutus on April 6, 1994.
Despite remarkable growth over the past 25 years under the leadership of President Paul Kagame, his critics believe the massacre could have been stopped in his tracks had he not ‘opposed UN intervention throughout the genocide’.
According to former aide David Himbara, every year during genocide commemoration, Kagame sings his favorite narrative that his pleadings to the UN to save Rwandan lives fell on deaf ears.
“Instead, Kagame is the one who had deaf years through genocide in 1994,” Himbara writes.
“Paul Kagame continued to oppose UN intervention throughout the genocide. First, Kagame’s Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) out rightly rejected the intervention on April 30, 1994. Then Kagame changed his tune. When the UN cornered him, Kagame began to fight over the number of troops that would make up the UN Intervention Force. The UN wanted a large force. Kagame rejected a large force.”
He cites a letter written on May 12, 1994, in which the RPF informed the UN Security Council that “We sincerely believe the size of the proposed force is far in excess of what is necessary to protect civilians in danger and to facilitate the distribution of the humanitarian assistance.”
The four page letter signed by the Gerald Gahima and Claude Dusaidi of the RPF’s Political Bureau adds, “The Rwandese Patriotic Front has fully restored law and order in the more than half of the national territory under its control. International humanitarian organistaions like the Red Cross, MSF, Unicef and the WFP will confirm that they are already operating in these areas without hindrance. No UN protection is necessary.
Last week, President Kagame attested to his country’s fighting spirit, of how it went from darkness to hope, and called honour and prevention acts of remembrance.
“We honour the victims. We honour the courage of the survivors, and we honour the manner in which the Rwandans have come together to rebuild our nation,” President Kagame told those gathered in the United Nations’ General Assembly Hall, including UN chief António Guterres.
Citing ‘denial and trivialization’ as the foundation of genocide, Kagame stressed that ‘countering denial is essential for breaking the cycle and preventing any recurrence’, according to a write up on un.org titled ‘From ‘dead on the inside’ to ‘truly alive’: Survivor of genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda recounts her story as UN marks 25th anniversary.’
He pointed out that Rwanda has been among the top five UN peacekeeping contributors, explaining that his nation contributes soldiers and police, “with values instilled by our tragic history”.
“As a nation once betrayed by the international community, we are determined to do our part to working with others to make things better going forward,” President Kagame concluded.