Every year on 7 April, people the world over come together to mark the Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Rwandan Genocide.
Jonathan Beloff, a PhD student at SOAS who specialises in Rwandan foreign policy, recalls the events leading to the genocide and the post-conflict actions taken by the Government designed to ensure it never happens again:
On the night of 6 April 1994, the Presidential plane of Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down and igniting a genocide lasting one hundred days and leading to the death of around one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The genocide did not begin that night, but instead was the outcome of anti-Tutsi hatred growing within Rwanda since 1959.
For over three decades, Rwandan Tutsis were forced to flee their homes as they experienced persecution and pogroms that left many dead or displaced. To escape persecution, many sought refuge in neighbouring countries. Many of these refugees hoped to return to their homeland. However, Rwandan officials insisted that the country was ‘full’ and continued to enact anti-Tutsis policies all with the world ignoring the blatant violations of Tutsis’ human rights.
The genocide witnessed the greatest abandonment of Rwanda with the world withdrawing their citizens and ignoring their pledge of ‘Never Again’. It was the relatively small group of Rwandan refugee rebel movement, the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), that ended the genocide by pushing the genocide government out of the country. The refugee and genocide experience greatly influences how the current RPF-dominated Rwandan Government perceives the international community and of how the global political system operates. Within each interaction between the Rwandan state and the world, Rwandan Government officials hold a sense of distrust and fear about trusting actors who had abandoned the country in its darkest hour.
At the core of the Rwandan Government is the duty to prevent a repetition of that chapter in the nation’s history. Rwanda’s impressive economic development, strive towards good governance and promotion of a ‘One Rwanda’ for all who identify as Rwandan might be praised by Western states and institutions. However, these achievements are directed towards preventing any Rwandan from experiencing the horror of genocide.
Dr Phil Clark has been actively involved in the reconciliation process in Rwanda. He has argued for the legitimisation of the ‘gacaca’ justice system over International tribunals, as mass participation in ‘truth-telling’ and accountability plays a vital role in facilitating reconciliation.
In 2014, he co-directed and produced a radio documentary on the prospects for forgiveness and reconciliation in post-genocide Rwanda, based on a two-year research project.
Listen to the documentary below:
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