Around the globe, Rwanda Diaspora communities began the 28th commemoration of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, Kwibuka28. In London, Rwanda’s envoy, High Commissioner Johnston Busingye, used the occasion, to once again, call for the UK to bring to trial, several individuals, who for years, have used the country as a safe haven to evade justice.
For the last several years, during the annual commemoration of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi, alongside Southwark Cathedral, St Marylebone Church, in central London, has stood with the Rwandan Diaspora community in the UK, as they remembered the over a million men, women and children, who were murdered during the genocide.
For this, the 28th year of remembrance, or Kwibuka28, it was once again, at St Marylebone, that the community gathered. And as every year, the church was full to capacity, with Rwandans joined by diplomats, political representatives, and friends of Rwanda.
This year, in anticipation of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Kigali, specially invited guests, included the deputy secretary-general of the commonwealth, Dr Arjoon Suddhoo, who hailed “the great strides Rwanda has made in its development” and looked forward to the June meeting in Kigali.
In his first public statement, since he was appointed the new High Commissioner to Rwanda, taking over from his predecessor, Yamina Karitanyi, Busingye emphasized the path taken by the Rwandan leadership, to unite the nation, and despite many challenges, forge amicable relations with neighbours, and others beyond.
A lawyer, who until recently, had been a long serving minister of justice and Attorney-General, for Rwanda, Busingye, also called for the end of what has been impunity, for five men accused of crimes of genocide, and who, on legal technicalities, have used Britain, as a safe place to hide from justice.
“Since 1994, those who used terrorism, in the name of ethnic separatism tried to violently subvert us, those who much later, used killed our people, claiming to pursue the rights of Rwandans, found our unity and resolve, stronger than their divisiveness, hate and propaganda. They all failed, and Rwandans became more united and resolute. As you know, many of their leaders were brought to justice. Our region today, treasures and works for greater unity, amicable relations and development…”
On the five fugitives, Busingye reiterated his pleas when he headed Rwanda’s justice ministry, and which were consistently repeated by his predecessor, Yamina Karitanyi.
“We know these men’s names, the UK knows their names, the world ought to know their names. They continue to live freely in the cities we share. All we ask is that they have their day in court in the UK…and let justice prevail.”
He applauded the formation of an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), which, although does not have any real powers, is nonetheless one of the mechanisms in the UK parliament, through which the executive is informed, when needed, nudged in what the APPG sees as the a right direction.
“Last year, an All Party Parliament Group (APPG), was established to lobby the UK government to ensure these individuals face justice. We are grateful for the effort. The relevant institutions in Rwanda are cooperating with the ongoing process to see justice served. We should not and we will not rest, until the perpetrators of genocide face justice. For the genocide survivors, the delay of justice, is justice denied.”
Echoing Busingye’s words, journalist, academic and author, Andrew Wallis, read out the names of the fugitives, and emphasized the importance of trials for the survivors.
“Trials give much solace to victims and survivors, some sense of closure, some of right finally being done. Trials silence denial.”
The five men should, and probably would have been extradited to Rwanda, upwards of a decade ago. This was prevented on appeal, primarily, somewhat bizarrely, on evidence of well known genocide deniers, and sympathisers of the planners and perpetrators of the genocide, who were especially flown in from across the world. It is analogous to a murder trial, in which the lookouts for the murder, were accepted as upstanding witnesses on behalf of the accused.
Delays have also been based on judges’ complaints that the case would add too much work, on their already full dockets.
Rwanda eventually abandoned the seemingly futile efforts to have the men extradited and tried in Rwanda, and instead, asked that they be at least tried in UK courts. To date, the UK has proved unable, unwilling, or too indifferent, to rise even to this request.
As so many countries, including countries in the European Union have done, there is little of substance preventing the UK, to have extradited the fugitives to Rwanda, in the full confidence that they would face a fair trial.
Busingye reminded his audience, the kind of country Rwanda was, and how far it has come, including in its reform of the justice system, led by Busingye himself.
“Rwanda is peaceful and prospering. The values of national unity, cohesion and inclusivity, have underpinned our development journey. We call this ideology Ndumunyarwanda, which means, we are all Rwandans, we are indivisible. Deniers of the genocide against Tutsi want to nip our unifying Ndumunyarwanda in the bud, because all they known, and depend upon, is ethnic extremism, without which, they will be no more.”