In January 2018, the United Nations General Assembly designated April 7 as the International Day of Reflection on 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.
This year is a second year when we are commemorating without getting together because public gatherings are still restricted due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
But even though activities for the commemoration remain suspended, it should not be a hindrance to paying tribute to the over a million lives lost 27 years ago.
This year's commemoration is more difficult for survivors, their families and for the country because we cannot all be physically together to comfort one another.
It is not an easy thing. We are used to coming together through several ceremonies like The Walk to Remember, the night vigil and group discussions in our communities.
In absence of communal activities, it is our collective responsibility to make an effort to reach out to genocide survivors who witnessed the horrific events and comfort them.
We must reflect on the lost lives and horrors we suffered as individuals and as a nation. Perhaps more importantly, as the country commemorates, it faces genocide deniers and revisionists.
It is well established that denial is a key step in the stages of genocide. Fighting it is essential in the “never again” campaign because it reflects the potential for the recurrence of genocide: When genocide deniers have an upper hand, their ideologies thrive. It means that impunity has triumphed because key lessons were not learned and therefore the threat – previous basis – for uprooting people remains.
It is rare to find reasonable people who find genocide denial as acceptable. Even the most ardent defenders of freedom of speech agree that genocide denial constitutes an assault on the memory of victims, mocks survivors, and is a threat in the fight against the recurrence of genocide.
However, genocide denial can – and often is – reproduced by the very “reasonable” people. This is done unwittingly due to negligence and at times failure to see the entire set of consequences for treating the subject of genocide casually.
It remains inappropriate to refer to tragic event as the “Rwandan genocide.” This is inconsistent with the definition of genocide. A Rwandan genocide is only possible as an interstate phenomenon.
Yet, it would also defeat the very essence of state control over the annihilation of its population “in part or in whole,” as the definition in the Genocide Convention states.
Therefore, as we commemorate let us honour and comfort the survivors. Let us make it our responsibility to challenge those who seek to negate the horrific acts of 1994.