What is behind US stubbornness in refusing to adopt right appellation of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi?

On 11 April 2023 at 11:17

Every year, Rwanda commemorates the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed the lives of over one million victims within 100 days, solely based on their innate identity.

The national mourning week in Rwanda begins on April 7th, and the flame remains lit for the next 100 days, symbolizing the period that the genocide lasted.

This time is meant to express solidarity with Rwandans, but unfortunately, some individuals persist in their refusal to change their attitudes and repeatedly reopen the wounds of survivors, particularly during the commemoration period.

In terms of those who continue to cause harm, certain European countries and the United States have made statements that distort the truth and fail to recognize the proper appellation of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, as approved by the United Nations (UN).

Political experts argue that the continued use of an incorrect appellation by the US and the United Kingdom demonstrates extreme contempt and reflects their stubbornness.

As Rwanda began commemorating the Genocide against the Tutsi for the 29th time last week, some partner countries shared messages of comfort with the Rwandan people.

However, the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, sparked controversy with a tweet that paid tribute to others killed for distancing themselves from the genocidal government.

“The U.S. stands with Rwanda during Kwibuka 29 in remembering the Tutsi victims of genocide. We also mourn the others who were murdered for their opposition to a genocidal regime. Let us recommit to preventing the horror of genocide from occurring again,” he tweeted.

The message sparked mixed reactions among social media users who criticized Secretary of State Blinken for drawing a comparison between Tutsis who were targeted and killed based on their innate identity, and those who were killed for denouncing the genocide plans.

Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Mary Catherine "Molly" Phee, also made remarks that undermined the the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in her commemoration message to Rwandans living in the US.

“On this solemn day, we remember the lives lost during 100 days of unspeakable violence. We grieve for the hundreds of thousands of Tutsi victims – men, women, and children – who were targets of genocidal violence because of their ethnicity. We also remember the Hutu, Twa, and others who were murdered due to their opposition to a genocidal regime. We stand with the survivors who witnessed these terrible crimes and still mourn the loss of their loved ones,” she said.

Rwanda insists that those who cannot acknowledge the correct appellation for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi should refrain from sharing messages that distort historical facts.

According to Nkusi Juvenal, a political expert and senator in Rwanda’s Upper Chamber of Parliament, the country continues to encounter chauvinistic attitudes, which he views as contemptuous behavior.

"The US’s attitude towards Rwanda is a gesture of extreme contempt towards us. The US practices chauvinistic politics all over the world. Changing their attitude seems unlikely," stated political expert Nkusi Juvenal.

Similarly, Tito Rutaremara, another political expert, explained that the US’s stance is not surprising as it has been maintained for a long time.

He added, "It is not surprising that the US and the United Kingdom were the only countries to abstain from voting in favor of the proper appellation of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, despite Tutsis being the only people targeted and killed based solely on their innate identity. Their reasons for sticking to their stance remain unclear, but they should try to understand it."

Tom Ndahiro, a researcher on the Genocide, explained that neglecting to mention victims who were targeted for extermination is like killing them twice because it shows a lack of desire to keep their memory alive.

He added, "This mixture of mentioning something else is one of the factors that fuel Genocide denial and trivialization."

Ndahiro criticized countries that claim to understand Rwanda’s challenges but still provide leeway for statements that trivialize the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, insisting that they should acknowledge historical reality.

As he presided over the ceremony marking the beginning of commemoration week on 7th April 2023, President Paul Kagame said that people with intentions to run away from historical facts won’t find a hiding place.

“You can run but can’t hide. There is no hiding place for you from these very facts of our history. So even those who have their time to say whatever they want to say, they will say it. Maybe they will do many things based on that as well. But the fact is, they cannot find a place to hide,” he said last week.

“And some of those who try to distort the facts of our history, it’s just because they cannot be ashamed. But we have our lives to live, all of us, and nobody, I want to say nobody, will ever decide for us how to live our lives. We have strength, incredible strength, coming from this history that informs us, that tells us that you should never, never, allow anybody else to dictate to you how you live your life. And that is Rwanda today,” added Kagame.

During his visit to Rwanda last year, Blinken was asked why the United States refused to adopt the official definition of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, but his response was evasive.

Blinken stated that the US has been clear about recognizing the Genocide and added that he had visited ’the memorial’ a few hours earlier to understand the suffering of ’so many people’.

He also stated that the US would continue working with the United Nations to properly recognize this dark period in history and would do everything in their power to ensure that it is never repeated.

The national mourning week in Rwanda begins on April 7th, and the flame remains lit for the next 100 days, symbolizing the period that the genocide lasted.