- April 7, 2014
Dear friends of Rwanda and compatriots,
I salute all the survivors.
There is nothing more isolating than Genocide, but the collective solidary is worth us coming together.
I am happy to see my colleague Ambassadors, members of the diplomatic corps, friends that have driven from afar.
It’s an honor and privilege for us to be sharing this moment of remembrance with you. Your solidarity and friendship is a true testament to those qualities, which have helped restore our faith in a shared humanity. I feel reenergized by our youth’s creative abilities. Thank you, for the different form of expression you showed us.
With more than one million lives lost at the hands of fellow countrymen, it seemed not long ago that evil had triumphed in Rwanda. We have heard the searing testimonies of Jacqueline Murekatete and Eduard Kayihura who offered a glimpse into the unimaginable suffering endured during one hundred days of genocide.
The Genocide against the Tutsi tests the limits of comprehension. The sheer scale of the horror forces us to ask questions of human nature itself. Many families of the people in this room including my own family were killed. Like many of you, I have had occasions to speak with many survivors and perpetrators in the years since. Read dozens of books and listened to countless experts as they tried to make sense to the senseless. I have spent many days and nights reflecting on what happened to my country — and my family. And yet I have no easy answer to the inevitable question, “why?”
Why were so many so willing to commit such horrendous violence against their neighbors, friends and even family members?
Why did messages of hatred and fear find such fertile ground?
Why did the world look on, warned of the impending catastrophe, aware of the massacres as they unfolded, but unwilling to act?
These are difficult and uncomfortable questions, but we owe it to victims and survivors, as well as future generations, to keep searching for answers. We must not avert our eyes. We cannot afford to look away.
Ladies and gentlemen, our search for answers is threatened by efforts to scramble our understanding of what took place in Rwanda in 1994. Even after the loss of a million people, the displacement of thousands of men, women and children, hundreds born out of rape and numerous other losses, there are STILL attempts to promote the lie that the facts of the genocide are up for debate. Debates or shall I say fabricated accounts that there is an official version alongside another, more authentic account kept hidden from view. This theory gives rise to the deeply offensive idea that the world’s collective understanding of what took place in 1994 has been shaped by a so-called “victor’s narrative”- the narrative that asserts that history is written from the victors’perspective.
To those who propagate such views, let me be clear: genocide by its nature produces no victor. There is only loss. Loss of life, of loved ones, of dignity, of hope. To those in the media who offer a platform to voices of denial and revisionism, let me be equally clear: what you may consider balance is nothing of the sort — it is a dangerous and misguided false equivalency. By all means, hold the government of Rwanda to account. By all means, probe and criticize. But please do not treat the history and meaning of genocide as if it is just another binary political battleground.
Ladies and gentlemen, in the last 20 years, the people of Rwanda have embarked on a steep road to recovery and healing. Our people have been empowered through a series of social, economic and political initiatives. Those efforts have enabled one million people to lift themselves out of despair and poverty. They have seen life expectancy double in the two decades since the genocide. They have led to strong, consistent economic growth, averaging more than 8 percent, and created a business environment attractive to investors and entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, universal health care has dramatically improved health outcomes. Once an all too common feature of Rwandan life, death in childbirth – baby, mother or both – has become a rarity. Mortality rates for malaria and HIV-AIDS have plummeted, and vaccination levels match or exceed many so-called developed countries. Expanded compulsory education and a strong national emphasis on technology are equipping the next generation to embrace the opportunities of a dynamic, modern and growing economy. Good governance and growth of the democratization processes empower Rwandans to take collective ownership of their country’s progress.
More importantly, we have engaged, like many people have talked about in this room, in a heart to heart conversation to explore what unites us instead of what divides us as Rwandans. Splitting the population into Tutsi, Hutu and Twa may have served the divide and rule agenda of past colonial administrations, but it serves no useful purpose today
Rwanda still has a long way to go. As our Foreign Minister Louise Muskikiwabo says, twenty years is no time at all in life of a country. Generations represented by the young people here today, who were able to impress us through their art – as well as generations yet unborn – will need to carry on the journey that we have started. While we invite all of you present here today to be part of this journey, I would like to send my gratitude to the United States government for standing with us today both in Rwanda and at our event here, as we remember and honor our loved ones. We thank you, for showing your support.
Finally, although today marks a somber moment to many of our friends and family, I am understandably proud of my people who have faced the challenges head-on and thus have become contributing agents to their own destiny. I am humbled by the fact that we now live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding forces of mutual respect and love.