Commemoration ceremony at the Camp Kigali Memorial
COMMEMORATION CEREMONY AT THE CAMP KIGALI MEMORIAL,
08 APRIL 2014
SPEECH OF DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER AND MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS DIDIER REYNDERS
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Yesterday we bowed our heads in memory of all the victims of the genocide against the Tutsi perpetrated twenty years ago in Rwanda, and in memory of those who tried to oppose it and were massacred because they were working towards a democratic Rwanda.
Today, we continue this homage here, in this place, which, like so many others in Rwanda, bears the evidence of the indescribable tragedy that was the genocide of 1994. This place holds special meaning to Belgium. It reminds us that our country was closely linked to that tragedy. It also reminds us of the trauma experienced by 22 families and the whole of the Belgian population when the compatriots who had come to help the Rwandan people were killed. It is to those compatriots and their families that my first thoughts are directed.
With us today are the families of the 10 Blue Helmets who fell here after persistent resistance. They had come into this country, far from home, as peacekeepers. They suddenly found themselves trapped in an explosion of hatred and violence.
With us are also representatives of the families of the twelve compatriots who fell at the time of those painful events. Some were killed because of their marriage with a Tutsi. Others were victims of the anti-Belgian propaganda which raged at that time, in particular maintained by the sinister “One Thousand Hills” radio station, which designated the Belgians as accomplices of the RPF and responsible for the assassination of President Habyarimana.
I would also like to pay homage to the Rwandan members of staff of our embassy in Kigali. Eight of them were murdered during the genocide.
To all of you who have lost friends and family, I would like to say: 20 years after these terrible events, they were not forgotten. They will never be forgotten.
It was Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt who, 14 years ago and at this very place, found the right words for recognizing Belgium’s errors and for assuming responsibility for them. He said: “It is true: the international community as a whole bears an immense responsibility. A dramatic procession of negligence, unconcern, incompetence, hesitation and error created the conditions for an unmentionable tragedy. I accept here before you the responsibility of my country, of the political and military authorities. Belgium was at the heart of the UN mission. It was before its very eyes that the genocide started. Belgium and the international community must recognize the errors made. I do not know, and will never know, if these terrible events of 1994 could have been prevented, but I am convinced that we should have done more, that we should have done better.” End of quotation.
At the same time he stressed the deep solidarity of our country with Rwanda. During the International Conference on Genocide Prevention on Tuesday April 1 in the Egmont Palace in Brussels, Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the United Nations, referred to the withdrawal of the UN peacekeepers from Rwanda and the hesitation of the United Nations with regard to the events in Srebenica. He stressed the importance of learning from these mistakes. The statement of then Prime Minister Verhofstadt and the need to learn from our mistakes are still the guiding lines of our actions.
In 1995, the Belgian courts started to prosecute people suspected of genocide who were on our territory. Several lawsuits took place and convictions were made. This effort continues: a new lawsuit is being prepared. We are determined to continue this fight against impunity and to ensure that all the persons responsible for that genocide, wherever they may be, are brought to justice.
But we must also remain vigilant for the future as we are reminded today by the dramatic situations in other countries overshadowed by the ghost of genocide. The fight against extremism, racism, the rejection of the other, discrimination and ethnic or religious hatred requires permanent attention. Unfortunately, current events all over the world remind us of this much too often.
It is in this spirit that, on the occasion of this 20-year commemoration, the participants in the just mentioned high-level International Conference on Genocide Prevention have reaffirmed the importance of adhering to international legal instruments, of implementing the Responsibility to Protect and of taking the necessary measures to prevent genocide of any kind. It is also crucial to focus our efforts on educating the youth about openness and tolerance, in order to prevent ideas of hatred and rejection of differences from being sown.
Rest assured that Belgium is determined to pursue this impetus, to disseminate this message and, with its partners within the international community, to ensure that these recommendations do not go unheeded.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In 20 years, a lot has been accomplished in Rwanda. I have witnessed with admiration the profound reconstruction and transformation of the country and am happy that Belgium remains an important partner of Rwanda in its endeavour towards social and economic transformation. I guess a lot remains to be done, given that twenty years is only a very short time span in the history of mankind.
We also wish to encourage Rwanda, like the other signatories of the Addis Framework Agreement, to implement the commitments in this agreement and thereby contribute to a sustainable solution of the crisis in Eastern DRC and the overall stability and prosperity of the Great Lakes Region.
The Rwanda we see today has nothing to do with the Rwanda of 1994. Leaving aside all hurdles, I can say that Belgium intends to remain at the side of Rwanda in building a society of tolerance, peace, reconciliation, prosperity and democracy.