18 July 2007

1817) Rwanda: Insight Into Tutsi Genocide by Rwembeho Stephen

The Genocide week in Rwanda is characterized by a complexity of issues like elsewhere in the world. This is the time when survivors of Genocide are filled with fear and desire of both moral and physical revenge. The perpetrators of Genocide on the other hand, are filled with shame or desire to do more killings. It is a tense week as we watch the films and listen to testimonies of all gruesome activities that were committed against the Tutsis. Scholars on, the other hand, battle it out asking themselves if it is worth having the memorial week or not. And the debate goes on the controversy over the naming of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda. Should it be called "The Rwandan genocide" or "The genocide that killed many Tutsis and moderate Hutus" or "The Tutsi Genocide?" . .

What do all these titles have to do with reconciling people and vice versa? What actually happened in Rwanda was Tutsi Genocide and the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda should be therefore, called the "Tutsi Genocide." Shying away from this fact and the truth is tantamount to denying the Genocide itself. If we have the Jewish Genocide, the Herero Genocide, the Armenian Genocide, etc. why do we find it difficult to have the Tutsi Genocide? Some radicals correctly put it that it sounds more comfortable to most people to accompany the Genocide in Rwanda with the killing of moderate Hutus.

Genocide is remembered in all countries where it happened for obvious reasons. If you bury your father and forget him, you will never have to tell his grandchildren, and this will ridicule you. We are told stories by typical events and whether we want or not we shall keep on experiencing the ills left by the genocide both the survivors and perpetrators. There are therefore commemorations all over in the worlds where genocide occurred.

Every year on April 24, people of Armenian descent organize blood drives, picket Turkish embassies, and celebrate special church services to commemorate the anniversary of the 1915 arrest of several hundred prominent Armenians in Constantinople. The arrests were the beginning of the genocide in which an estimated 1.5 million Armenians were slaughtered by Ottoman Turks between 1915 and 1923.

However, they find themselves in similar circumstances that Rwanda faces - of people who do not want to remember. Reasons for fear to remember remain the same in both cases. This is one utterance reacting to the yearly commemoration of the Armenian genocide."Genocide is the most abhorrent and outrageous crime against humanity and we are not going to prevent it by selectively remembering only some of its victims."

The Holocaust and Genocide Memorial Day of 27 January is the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration and extermination camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau - seen as a powerful symbol of the horrors of the Holocaust. Holocaust Memorial Day is about commemorating all of the communities who suffered as a result of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution, and demonstrating that the Holocaust is relevant to everyone in the UK today.

The day provides a focus - through the national and local events and activities - for people to think about the continuing repercussions of the Holocaust and more recent genocides on our society.

However, critics claim that the holocaust is too old to be remembered now as other crimes have overtaken it. "If someone wants to honour the victims of holocaust, war etc., then they should do so in there own private way. Similar negative criticism does not spare the holocaust either. "National memorial" days just drag up the past and do not necessarily look to the future."

And what do Rwandan critics on the commemoration of the 1994 Tutsi Genocide say?

Rwandans have mixed reactions with some against, others for and those who do not care about the Genocide at all.

Whatever the line one takes, the fact is that we cannot afford to live with hate. People have to be reminded about this. Holocaust Memorial Day should influence behaviour changes today. We need to put it in context of all suffering. Everyone should remember in their own way.

Lectures given in the days of commemoration must be able to contextualize the issue of hatred and genocide in Rwanda.

The Holocaust Memorial Days for example aim to: remember all victims of the Holocaust and Nazi persecution; reflect upon those affected by more recent atrocities, in Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia and Kosovo.

Educate about the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism and all forms of discrimination.

Ultimately, the day aims to restate the continuing need for vigilance and to motivate people, individually and collectively, to ensure that the horrendous crimes, racism and victimization committed during the Holocaust are neither forgotten nor repeated, whether in Europe or elsewhere in the world.

While teaching about the Tutsi Genocide of 1994 in Rwanda, similar enlightenments must be brought to surface in all discussions.

Comparative studies and explanations are essential and ignorance about other world genocides does not provide a clear cut explanation of the Rwanda.

For example, the massacre of the Armenians in Turkey in 1915-23, the Holocaust of the Jews in Hitler's Germany, the mass killing of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, and the ongoing slaughter in the Darfur provinces of western Sudan today. You don't just finish people (the Janjaweed) the way you want when the whole world is watching.

The unfortunate part of it is that very few people have the concern, the will and ability to take the comparisons down to earth and use them in the context of Rwanda. Those few, therefore, should come in to help.

Any genocide has it own uniqueness and it is wrong to portray any genocide as the same as others. This kind of understanding will allow you to understand why the Holocaust is regarded classically as the only unique genocide to have happened. But the uniqueness in the Tutsi Genocide is evident; the speed with which it was carried out and the relationship between the victims and the killers make it an extremely unique genocide. So the problem should not be in the degree of uniqueness but the context.

Remembering is very important in as far as the concept of evil deterrence is concerned.

It gives us the bench mark of our morality as a society and the ability to say no to evil. It is one of the steps in the long chain of procedures to de-poison the Rwandan psyche and psychologically rehabilitate the dehumanized psyche of the survivors.

The writer is a researcher at K.I.E

AllAfrica.com, Washington
New Times (Kigali)
16 July 2007


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