After the United Nations passed a resolution setting April 7 as the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, the US and the UK have raised concerns and sent their Positions of Explanations (PoE) to the UN over the words used in the text.
In statement dated April 20, the US says it is concerned that the changes made in the text narrow the focus of the resolution and fail to fully capture the magnitude of the violence that was committed against other groups.
“Many Hutus and others were also killed during the genocide, including those murdered for their opposition to the atrocities that were being committed.
“Failing to honour and remember these victims presents an incomplete picture of this dark history,” reads part of the statement, adding that as much as they support the resolution’s overall aim, America’s understanding of the “circumstances of the genocide in Rwanda has not changed.
“We are concerned the negotiation weakened the text and added unnecessary costs.”
The statement released by the UK, said “Whilst we did not break silence on the text, we would like to express some reservations on the text. We disagree with the framing of the genocide purely as the ‘1994 Genocide against the Tutsi’”.
“As noted in previous resolutions, we believe that Hutus and others who were killed should also be recognised,” read the UK statement.
The statements have ruffled feathers in Rwanda. Emmanuel Nshimiyimana, a genocide scholar and researcher, said the long-held positions by the US and UK bare negationist undertones, intended to minimise the gravity of what happened.
According to Mr Nshimiyimana during the Holocaust for example, other groups of people were killed, but they were not the primary targets of extermination, this is why they are not included in its naming.
“During the Holocaust gay people, Jehovah witnesses and other groups were killed, but the target were Jews, hence these other groups didn’t feature in the naming. Why should it be different with Rwanda where these very countries acknowledge that it was the Tutsi’s who were targeted?” he said.
Although the petitions by both countries do not affect the resolution, he said the positions taken matter and they will go on to feed into existing narratives as reference.
Victoire Ingabire, a Rwandan political activist, said there is nothing new in what the US and the UK said, given that the UN itself has made the same observations in its previous reports and resolutions.
“We need to explain and differentiate the crimes that happened in Rwanda at that time. It is on record that the 1994 genocide was against the Tutsi, I recognize that, but other people were also killed.
“A Hutu woman and her family killed alongside the Tutsi neighbours she was hiding should be recognised. This should not be seen as negation, the US and the UK are correcting their earlier oversights,” she said.
“Often, materials dealing with the Rwandan genocide have spoken of 'the genocide of the Tutsi and the progressive Hutu.' Obviously, the Hutu could not be victims of genocide, as the ICTR has decided. But of course the victims of the violence in 1994 were not only Tutsi,” said William A Schabas, a professor of International Law at Middlesex University School of law in London and who has published a number of papers on the genocide.
“Rather than advancing reconciliation, the explanations of position of the US and the UK bring ambiguity that feeds the resurgent genocide denial movement that is already on the rise in the Great Lakes region and beyond,” said Valentine Rugwabiza, Rwanda’s Ambassador & Permanent Representative to the UN.
The UN recognised that a crime consistent with its definition of genocide had been committed in Rwanda against the Tutsi between April 6 and July 17, 1994, and subsequently established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to prosecute persons responsible for the crimes.