Apr 07, 2016

Batwa: 22nd Genocide Commemoration in Rwanda

Today, for the 22nd annual commemoration of the 1994 Genocide, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a statement asking UN Member States to remember and work for such an event to never happen again. Speaking about genocide, the Secretary-General underlined how “history has repeatedly demonstrated that no part of the world is immune” to such horrors. When looking at the Batwa community, with which UNPO has been working since before these tragic events, it is estimated that as many as 80% were affected by the genocide, having been killed or being still missing at the time of UNPO’s mission in late 1994. During the genocide, there was a general perception that the Batwa were “friends of the Batutsi” due to the fact that many had lived or worked at their court, thus making them targets.

It must be noted that in many respects Rwanda has made impressive progress since 1994. However, there is still a lot to improve, especially for what concerns indigenous communities. The adoption of a law that does not recognise ethnic minorities was seen as a solution to the 1994 genocide. However, these regulations make it very hard to address the problems of the Batwa community, scattered in small settlements in rural areas throught the whole country, in a comprehensive and efficient way. The Batwa can only be referred to with the vague expression “historically marginalised communities”, which makes even referring to them as a group trickier. During UNPO’s last visit of Rwanda in March 2016, these issues clearly emerged. 


Below is an article published by the United Nations.

In 1994, more than 800,000 people were systematically murdered throughout Rwanda.  The vast majority were Tutsi, but moderate Hutu, Twa and others were also targeted.  On this Day, we remember all who perished in the genocide and renew our resolve to prevent such atrocities from ever being repeated, anywhere in the world. 

We should all be inspired by the survivors’ courage in showing that reconciliation is possible even after such a tragedy.  With the Great Lakes region still facing serious threats to peace and security, healing and reconstruction remain essential.

Honouring the victims of the genocide in Rwanda also means working for justice and accountability.  I commend United Nations Member States in the region and beyond for their continued efforts to arrest and hand over remaining fugitives and end impunity.  The best way to ensure that genocide and other egregious violations of human rights and international law can never occur again is to acknowledge shared responsibility and commit to shared action to protect those at risk.

Genocide is not a single event.  It is a process that takes time and preparation.  History has repeatedly demonstrated that no part of the world is immune.  One of the key warning signs is the spread of hate speech in public discourse and the media that targets particular communities.

The theme of this year’s observance is “Fighting Genocide Ideology”.  It is essential that Governments, the judiciary and civil society stand firm against hate speech and those who incite division and violence.  We must promote inclusion, dialogue and the rule of law to establish peaceful and just societies.

The history of Rwanda teaches us an essential lesson.  While the capacity for the deepest evil resides in all societies, so too do the qualities of understanding, generosity and reconciliation.  Let us nurture these hallmarks of our common humanity to help build a life of dignity and security for all.

Ban Ki-moon