History as Lithuania marks its first commemoration of 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi

By Wycliffe Nyamasege
On 26 April 2024 at 10:30

Lithuania on Thursday, April 25, 2024, joined the world in commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The event held at the Memorial Complex of Tuskulėnai Peace Park in Vilnius marked the first commemoration in Lithuania and the whole Baltic States of the genocide which claimed the lives of more than one million people in Rwanda.

In attendance were representatives of the Lithuanian government, the diplomatic community and Rwandan nationals living in Lithuania.

The commemoration event dubbed ’Kwibuka30’, began with the lighting of candles, which the organisers of the anniversary said represented the ever-shining lights of the more than one million victims of the genocide.

Olivier J.P. Nduhungirehe, Ambassador of Rwanda to Lithuania, leads the Lithuanian delegation to light candles in honour of the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

The candle lighting ceremony was led by Arūnas Bubnys, General Director of the Lithuanian Genocide and Resistance Research Center, Vytautas Pinkus, Head of the Global Affairs Group of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Olivier J.P. Nduhungirehe, Ambassador of Rwanda to Lithuania (with residence in The Hague) and Professor Justinas Žilinskas of the University of Vilnius.

During the commemoration, Ambassador Nduhungirehe recounted that the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi was planned and committed by Rwandans against Rwandans, by an extremist regime against a part of the population.

He, however, pointed that the atrocities were enabled by the failures and silence of the international community, mainly the United Nations Secretariat, the UN Security Council and individual western powers that were historically and economically linked to Rwanda.

The ambassador also acknowledged the apologies made by Western powers for their inaction in stopping the intended extermination of members of the Tutsi community in Rwanda in 1994 by the Hutu-led regime.

“In the aftermath of the genocide, individual powers, through parliamentary commissions, as well as political and academic debates, tried to understand their own failure in Rwanda in 1994. A number of Heads of State and Government of those countries came to Rwanda after the genocide to admit responsibility and present their apologies, in a form or another.

“The UN, on its part, did the same, and on 15th December 1999, its ‘Report of the independent inquiry into the actions of the United Nations during the 1994 genocide in Rwanda’ concluded that ‘the international community did not prevent the genocide, nor did it stop the killing once the genocide had begun’”, the ambassador stated.

He said memorial sites erected by some of the countries continue to raise awareness of the Genocide against the Tutsi.

“I take this opportunity to thank European and North American countries that erected, on their soil, memorials to honour the victims of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, namely France, Belgium, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Italy, the Netherlands and Germany. We hope, in order to raise more awareness, to erect more genocide memorials in Europe, especially in the Baltic States”, he stated.

He also called for deliberate efforts to include lessons on the Genocide against the Tutsi in school curriculums, similar to the way the genocide of European Jews during World War II is taught in schools.

“Beyond memorials, and as requested by the UN General Assembly resolution, we believe that it would be important for Lithuania and for your respective countries, to consider including lessons on the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in your schools’ curricula,” he added.

“Indeed, we have noticed that in many countries in the world and in Europe in particular, young generations don’t know much about this tragedy. We therefore find it important that as the Holocaust is taught in schools, so should be all genocides established by international jurisdictions or recognized by the international community, in particular the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.”

The commemoration event was organised by the Embassy of Rwanda to Lithuania, which has its residence in The Hague, in collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Lithuania and the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania.

Rwanda marks ’Kwibuka’ every April 7 and the event lasts for 100 days of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.