President Uhuru Kenyatta formally apologised to Rwanda Monday over failure by the East African States to step in and save the country from the horrendous 1994 genocide.
President Kenyatta said although the rest of the world had maintained a studious silence as Rwandan Hutus killed members of the Tutsi ethnic community, it was not justified for the East African region to also stand aside without taking action.
The President regretted that for 100 days of the genocide, Rwanda suffered grievously without the world daring to step in and fulfil the famous “never again” pledge made after the Jewish Holocaust.
“Our region also stood aside, and for that we owe the most profound apology to the people of Rwanda. We have learned that no one from far away can be relied on to come to our aid; we must build an independent capability and will to protect the lives of our children and their futures”, said the President.
The Head of State who is also the chairman of the East African Community issued the statement in Kigali after attending the 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide alongside 20 other Heads of States and Government from across the world.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also attended the commemorations that brought together delegations from at least 10 countries from the African continent, USA, Britain, Germany, China and Canada.
Part of the commemorations included laying or wreaths by the Heads of State and dignitaries to the Kigali Genocide Memorial Site in Gisozi where the remains of the genocide victims are buried.
Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame and Ban also lit a torch at Gisozi that will burn for 100 days, the length of time the genocide lasted. During the period, communities will come together to remember the lives lost in the genocide and support survivors. July 4 will mark the 20th anniversary of the end of the genocide. It will also be a period to reflect on Rwanda’s story of resilience, reconciliation and nation building.
President Kenyatta said that although mass violence was not expected to revisit Rwanda, the lessons learnt were enough to justify vigilance saying, “This is why there is a regional force on standby to ensure peace.”
“The Inter-Government Committee on the Great Lakes Region (IGCLR), the Eastern Africa Standby Force, and other arrangements remain at hand to ensure that our region is never again home to mass murder and genocide.”
President Kenyatta traced the Rwanda genocide to the colonialism’s racist ideology and a post-colonial state that practiced the politics of division and terror.
The Head of State said there is need to ensure the region is as strong on security and mutual aid, as it is in trade and economic integration.
“Building an EAC in this second decade of the 21st century that would have intervened in 1994 is the least we can do to honour the memory of the dead,” said President Kenyatta.
He said Rwanda people had learnt its lesson well, where, after burying their dead and seeking justice for the victims by pursuing the killers, the Rwandans are now building their nation, disavowed ethnic division and promised good government.
President Kenyatta described Rwanda as a phoenix and home to millions of unsung heroes including members of the Rwanda Patriotic Front who liberated the country from the killers under the gallant leadership of President Paul Kagame.
“I salute the Rwandans who endured and survived. I applaud those who reached out to save their neighbours. I thank the Rwanda Patriotic Front for doing what so many others were unable or unwilling to do. I join hands with your President, H.E. Paul Kagame, in working toward a region that is prosperous, brotherly and safe for all our people”, said President Kenyatta.
He said Kenyans have learnt from Rwanda’s outstanding example of resisting the politics of ethnic division adding that Kenyans had also suffered from the violence that arises from not putting colonial divide-and-rule narratives to rest.
“We must guard against those who sought to dominate and exploit us all those years ago, and who even today pursue their economic and geopolitical interests with scant regard for our independence and sovereignty”, added the president.
The Head of State also hailed the Gacaca Justice Resolution Mechanism of deploying home-grown solutions.
President Kenyatta said the dreadful media of Kangura and Radio RTLM must be remembered for people in the region to reject hateful and inflammatory speech that seeks to turn people against one another on the basis of ethnicity or religion.
He described the new Rwanda as an important partner to Kenya. “You are no longer just a nearby country; you are a first-line partner in our transformative political and economic enterprises”, he added.
President Kenyatta regretted the tragic events in South Sudan and Central African Republic adding that Kenya will continue engaging all the players in search of peace in the troubled countries.
“Our troops like those of Rwanda have been deployed to protect civilians, while our diplomats work overtime to forge stability and then peace. We must not allow those crises to escalate any further into the kind of mass atrocities that would betray our determination to ensure that “never again” is a real promise” said the Head of State