Today, the 7th of April the year 2014, 20 years after the genocide in Rwanda 1994 we are gathered to remember and share grief. We will share knowledge of the atrocities. We will share hope for Rwanda as home for Rwandese working together for a common future.
As a member of the African Unions “International Panel (of Eminent Personalities) to Investigate the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda and the Surrounding Events” and with my background in UNICEF and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child it was a duty to bring in children and women into our investigation. In the genocide women and children were purposely targeted as they were seen as the reproductive part of “the enemy” and they had to be exterminated. The Panel decided to have a special chapter on women and children and at the same time let the report continuously mirror their horrendous situation.
The propaganda machinery especially through “radio mille colline” called out the genocidal messages in different settings both in Kenya/Rwanda and in the French language to the well-organized small villages. As people were educated to obey, many became instrumental in the genocide death machinery and they were supported by specially trained groups in which young boys in great numbers were active.
Rape was used as a systematic tool to wipe out the Tutsi population and according to testimonies given by survivors the Panel concluded that practically every female over the age of twelve who survived the genocide was raped. We found that most women had chosen to remain silent about their tremendous ordeals.
The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and also the UN International Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia have considered rape as constituting genocide or crime against humanity under their mandates.
Let me continue with some facts about children in Rwanda under the genocide. Not only children themselves were targeted. Maternal clinics, orphanages, children’s homes and schools were systematically damaged. UNICEF reported that around 80 percent of the children had experienced death in their immediate family. Almost all children had seen dead bodies and more than half of the children watched people being killed. And almost half of the children had witnessed killing by other children. Another circumstance in Rwanda during our investigation was that between 45- and 60 000 households was headed by children under 18, mostly girls. The Rwandan government estimated that there were between 400- and 500 000 children who were unaccompanied after the genocide.
Child soldiers is another category of children who needed rehabilitation.
The Ministry of Rehabilitation, Education, Social Affairs and Youth worked together with UNICEF on a national demobilization project for boys. A study in 1999 estimated that some 20 000 children from Rwanda were still taking part in the hostilities.
Education is an important part of a stable society. In Rwanda three quarters of the 1800 primary schools were damaged. Teachers were killed or fled the country or participated in the genocide. Many school buildings and churches were used either as slaughterhouses or concentration camps.
When we step by step finalized the report of the genocide in Rwanda the title of the report was decided to be “The Preventable Genocide” indicating the tremendous failure not only of the Rwandan society but also the neighbors, the regional organizations (the African Union), the European actors including former colonizers and the Catholic Church. USA had its special responsibility as they did not define the ongoing genocide as such in order to avoid responsibility according to the 1948 Geneva Convention on Genocide. This resulted in insufficient and wrong decisions in the Security Council and with consequences also for the UN Secretariat. After the African Union had decided to set up a panel to investigate the genocide, the UN Secretary General initiated an independent inquiry into the actions of the UN during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. One of the three chairmen (Ingvar Carlsson) reported already in December 1999. The facts and the recommendations from our report and the Carlsson report resemble each other concerning the failure of the UN Security Council to take full responsibility according to their mandate. The recommendations from these two reports should be studied simultaneously.
I want specially to emphasize the recommendation §13 in the Carlsson report. “The international community should support efforts in Rwanda to rebuild the society after the genocide, paying particular attention to the need for reconstruction, reconciliation and respect for human rights, and bearing in mind the different needs of survivors, returning refugees and other groups affected by the genocide.”
In the Panel’s recommendations we were trying to address different levels
First the national level, as nation building, the political framework, justice, economic and social reconstruction and media.
Second level, the great lakes region and the continent under the headings
of education, refugees and regional integration.
The third level, the organization of the African Union.
The fourth level, the international community – the UN.
The recommendation from the Panel ment to include children and young people in all these aspects mentioned. We emphasized the new inclusive ethnicity and long term strategies to promote this new direction. The new direction being renewing the justice system together with reformed education from the framework for reconciliation and national unity.
The Panel emphasize justice and education being of mayor importance for the future society. After the genocide in Rwanda the government and the international community organized a system for justice; the International Criminal Court for Rwanda approved by the UN Security Council. The Rwandan former judicial mechanism was reconstructed and the traditional mechanism gaccaca were reformed. Breaking up the tradition of impunity was seen as utterly important. For young people it is of extreme importance that the perpetrators of different violent acts appears before courts including the traditional gaccaca. It’s part of young people’s education to understand the consequences of genocide.
It will take time for Rwanda. Remember the impact of the World War II and the Holocaust. Violence doesn’t solve problems. Confidence building and peaceful cooperation on every level of society can step by step change society. I have seen these steps taken in Rwanda.