29 Years of Ibuka: A Global Endeavor for Justice and Remembrance

By Karirima Aimable Ngarambe
On 3 January 2024 at 08:12

The turbulent history that Rwanda endured until the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi left survivors and those deeply affected by the tragic events seeking a platform to come together, share their stories, and express their pain through various forms of art and culture.

Out of this collective need for healing and remembrance, the Ibuka family emerged. Established in Belgium on August 16, 1994, by Rwandans residing there at the time, Ibuka stands as an organization dedicated to the welfare of Genocide survivors, expanding its reach across continents.

Ibuka’s journey began with Ibuka-Belgium, followed by the establishment of branches in Switzerland, Rwanda, Europe, France, Italy, Holland, Germany, the USA, Senegal, Maine-USA, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Canada in subsequent years.

The inception of Ibuka in Belgium, given Rwanda’s historical ties with the country, was a challenging endeavor that demanded dedication, patience, and relentless effort, with some Rwandans and Belgians sacrificing nights until Ibuka materialized.

The organization’s first significant action took place on April 7, 1995, a poignant date when over a million Tutsis fell victim to the 1994 Genocide. Ibuka-Belgium played a crucial role in subsequent actions, including creating and publishing documents to expose Genocide suspects globally.

Advocacy efforts gained momentum as Ibuka members, guided by Rwandan government initiatives, pursued justice against those denying or trivializing the Genocide against the Tutsi, bringing perpetrators to trial in Belgium and France.

Belgium’s proactive stance in prosecuting Genocide perpetrators became evident, with the Court of Assizes in Brussels hosting trials from 2001 onwards. Notable cases include the Nuns of Sovu, Samuel Ndashikirwa, Etienne Nzabonimana, Bernard Ntuyahaga, Ephrem Nkezabera, and the landmark Fabien Neretse case in 2019. Recent convictions in 2023, such as Twahirwa Séraphin and Pierre Basabose, signify continued efforts to seek justice.

In France, trials against individuals like Captain Simbikangwa, Octavien Ngenzi, Tito Barahira, Claude Muhayimana, Bucyibaruta Laurent, Hategekimana Philippe, and Dr. Sosthène Munyemana resulted in convictions and 24-year sentences, marking a step forward in addressing Genocide-related crimes.

Beyond legal pursuits, Ibuka’s collaborative efforts with authorities, Rwandan Embassies, and city leaders have led to the erection of monuments in various European cities. These memorials serve as poignant reminders of the Genocide against the Tutsi, providing spaces for survivors and the public to reflect on the tragic events of 1994 and engage in discussions to prevent such atrocities from recurring.

In Belgium, monuments like "La Stèle Commémorative" in Brussels and the "Plaque commémorative" in Charleroi stand as enduring tributes. France boasts multiple monuments, including those in Cluny, Dieulefit, Bègles, and Paris’s "Jardin de la Mémoire." Switzerland recently opened a commemorative site in Lausanne.

Italy contributes to the remembrance efforts with monuments like "Parco Nemorense" in Rome and one in Tradate’s Children’s Park. Turin’s "Piazza delle Vittime del Genocidio dei Tutsi" and Buttigliera d’Asti’s road further emphasize the global commitment to preserving memory.

In England, memorials in Plymouth and Liverpool, along with planned additions, demonstrate the international scope of remembrance efforts. Africa’s sole memorial is in Senegal, located at "La Place du Souvenir Africain."

These endeavors underscore the ongoing commitment to uncovering the truth about the Genocide against the Tutsi. The collective efforts of Genocide survivors spanning European, African, and American continents continue to bear witness in courts and contribute to over 1000 documents demanding the arrest of Genocide suspects.

As Ibuka marks 29 years abroad, the question lingers: Will the unity forged in the face of adversity prevail in the next 30 years? Looking back, survivors who once endured the Genocide are now elders, using their strength to empower the younger generation. The journey towards lasting unity and remembrance remains a shared responsibility for the global community.

Paris: Aminadabu Birara space designated for memory of the courageous resistants with Birara as their hero.
This photo taken in Paris features lawyers who defended survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
The Palace of justice in Paris.
Commemoration events held abroad also attract representatives from host countries.
The memorial space launched in Switzerland is based in Lausanne.
A memorial site in Belgium, honoring the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Amsterdam hosts the 'Monument du Génocide contre les Tutsis,' a dedicated memorial honoring the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Artists delivering performances that resonate with the commemorative theme for the victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in the Netherlands.
Netherlands also hosts a memorial site in honour of victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi

During commemoration events held in Belgium, survivors take the moment to share their testimonies.

Officials at the launch of memorial space in Switzerland.

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