The United Nations General Assembly designated April 7 as the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in 2003. This annual event remembers the time when Hutu extremists started a campaign to kill off the minority Tutsi people in their own country.
In addition to raising awareness among younger generations about the legacy of this genocide and the values of a culture of peace, the day also serves to honour the memory of the victims and pay tribute to the survivors.
The genocide in Rwanda, often known as the genocide against the Tutsi, occurred during the Rwandan Civil War, which had begun in 1990. Members of the Hutu majority administration presided over it from April 7 to mid-July 1994, a 100-day period. According to estimates, between 500,000 and 1,000,000 Rwandans were killed, making up around 70% of the Tutsi population.
The tactics of genocide denial and revisionism were well-known and documented. Some people spread the idea of double genocide in the hope that it would take the focus off of them. The more than 1 million people who perished in the genocide were killed in the most horrendous conditions because they belonged to a group that was dehumanised and targeted for total extermination.
Also, 30 percent of the Pygmy Batwa died. The genocide and widespread killing of Rwandans came to an end after current Rwandan President, Paul Kagame’s Tutsi-backed, heavily armed Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) seized power in Kigali and throughout the country. The majority of the 2,000,000 Rwandans who were displaced and became refugees were Hutus.
Members of the core Hutu political elite, many of whom held posts at the highest levels of the national government, were responsible for organising the genocide. The perpetrators were members of the Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi militias, as well as members of the Rwandan army, gendarmerie, and the police.
The Executive Council of the African Union asked the General Assembly of the United Nations to declare April 7, 2004, the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and the General Assembly agreed. In March 2003, the Council suggested that the United Nations and the rest of the world hold a global day of reflection and recommitment to fighting genocide, in remembrance of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
This day stands to honour the memory of the children, women, and men brutally murdered years ago and remember all the victims of this tragic and dark chapter. Unless the world remembers the lessons learnt, it would never live up to its pledge to ensure that no other country endured the pain and suffering that Rwanda faced. The African Union had embedded those lessons in the values of solidarity and unity, and in the core principle of non-indifference enshrined in its Constitutive Act.
Because of this, it is very important to pass laws or Assembly resolutions that reject negation, revisionism, and denial of the Rwandan genocide.
The Day of Reflection is an opportunity to consider the factors that led to such mass atrocity and to renew the collective pledge of “never again.” In today’s worrying times, marked by growing expressions of extremism and hate around the world, it sends a clear message that African countries should be a platform for promoting and protecting human dignity for all.