Never again has too often been spoken in haste, lacked honest conviction or was a convenient utterance aimed to capture an audience or score cheap points. When Rwanda this Saturday commemorates the 18th anniversary of one of the swiftest and most cruel genocides in human history in 100 days between 800.000 and 1.000.000 million innocent babies, children, women, elderly and men were brutally hacked to death, burnt to death or grenaded to death it will be a somber mood marking the occasion, thecoming of age so to speak of an event which has traumatized that nation and her neighbours alike, and Never Again will mean something more than just words in the Land of a Thousand Hills.
When the news finally managed to escape, inspite of an attempted blackout by the brutal regime of the killer militias in Easter of 1994, which had gone as far as assassinating their own President for having shown willingness for compromise, the troops of the liberation movement, the Rwanda Patriotic Front, led by Paul Kagame who has since become President of Rwanda, reportedly cried. They were battlehardened of course like few others but when confronted with the piles upon piles of bodies they found at road sides, in churches, in community centres or floating down rivers by their thousands their tears nevertheless broke from their eyes. We in Uganda at the time cried also, well, at least those with a shred of human decency in them and yet found the steely resolve to raise much needed support for the RPF to complete the liberation of Rwanda. Meanwhile did the UN Peace Keeping Force, instead of being strengthened and given an active mandate to prevent the wholesome slaughter, withdraw, leaving forever a stain on the organization and in particular one Koffi Annan, who was at the time in charge of this operation. The French contingent also withdrew under a cloud, suspected ever since of covertly backing the killer militias, as they left their ammunition dumps and material behind instead of destroying it, which prolonged the slaughter when the killers made use of it.
When eventually the militias were driven out of Rwanda, the masterminds and inciters themselves had fled to safety, or what they thought was safety. For years did the killer militias cause hit and run attacks across the border, from their hidehouts in Congo, where they felt safe until Rwanda, harshly critizised at the time by the very people who had overtly and covertly supported the previous regime, for violating international borders. Again, for the friends of the new Rwanda, that came not a day too soon and the results today speak volumes. There are times, not many admittedly, but there are when legalities have to give way to common sense and when what needs to be done has to be done.
Since then have battlefield successes greatly reduced if not almost extinguished the ability of the erstwhile killers to launch any further meaningful military action, reducing that threat almost to naught while trial convictions have been achieved in Arusha where the International Tribunal on Rwanda sits and to where a number of key suspects have been extradited. Most notably have several genocide masterminds since been extradited to Rwanda outright, to stand trial, not abroad but at home where they caused mass murder on a hideous scale as to rival the Pol Pots of Cambodia or the purges of Stalin in those long gone days to get the justice they deserve, a life in prison with hard labour when convicted of their crimes.
Much has been said over the years, but this year, the coming of age with the 18th anniversary now ringing in, not all needs repeating.
What is evident is that the new Rwanda has risen from the ashes like a Phoenix, has created economic opportunities for all Rwandans and is shaping up into a new nation of equally news Rwandans, who have been able to reconcile, forgive, yet not forget what had happened in those 100 days of 1994.
Today, as on all occasions since 1994 when the calendar showed that date again and again, I offer my deepest thoughts and sympathy to my friends in Rwanda, as I stand with them and help to show the world what the new Rwanda is like, stands for and where it aims to be, in Africa and as a member of the global family of nations.
Let us work together, stand together and remember together and make sure that Never Again is not just a phrase but a lasting commitment under vigilant eyes, making sure that not one of those criminal ideologies and ideas ever takes root or rears their ugly heads again.