The Rwanda Genocide and Beyond
The annual commemoration at the African Union Headquarters of the 1994 Rwanda Genocide affords us an opportunity to mark our collective resolve not only to assist Rwanda come to terms with the consequences of its dreadful past and continue to engage the appropriate measures to live with the present but perhaps and more importantly, to give all Rwandan citizens sufficient grounds to hope for the future.
|AU members commemorate the Rwanda genocide|
As we gather to reflect on this solemn occasion, on the horrendous events that took place seventeen years ago on African soil and salute the memory of the victims of the 1994 Genocide through this public act of remembrance, we are also reminded of the millions of other Africans in many parts of our Continent who have died as a result of senseless conflicts, characterized by the violation of basic human rights norms, principles and practices.
Seventeen years ago, we watched with shock and utter disbelief from the comfort of our living rooms, scenes of brutality untold as the genocide unfolded in Rwanda; we saw Africa’s image tarnished when Rwanda lost nearly a million of its citizens in a period of a hundred days and many, many more carried the scars as living victims. The whole world stood paralysed despite the unanimous adoption on 9 December 1948, by the United Nations General Assembly, of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (known as “the Genocide Convention”) and the international community’s subsequent promise to “Never Again”.
Even as we remember the fallen mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters in Rwanda, we should not be oblivious of the fact that the realities of situations that could wake up that bestial instinct of man to exterminate his kind are still with us. The African Continent today is not only grappling with finding lasting solutions to long-lasting conflicts in Somalia and The Sudan but also truly explosive situations that need immediate attention. No doubt, those events in Rwanda still reverberate in our conscience as we stand witness to the unfortunate events in both Libya and the Ivory Coast.
If we must say “Never Again” then we must make every effort to go beyond the talk and meaningfully embrace the novel concepts and ideologies fashioned by the African Union and its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity. We should be prepared to tackle the root causes of conflicts and political ineptitude in Africa. For the African Union to be of relevance, it must be solutions-oriented even as we continue dialoguing and adopting resolutions and decisions.
In essence, this commemoration should not only remind us of a past never to be repeated; it grants us the opportunity of further reflecting on how to deepen our commitment towards achieving justice, peace, respect of human rights on the African Continent and exploiting our rich diversity to engender unity and prosperity for all.
Our coming together should thus serve to raise greater awareness within Africa and the world over; it should equally symbolise for us a stark reminder of the sanctity of human life and encourage us to renew our collective commitment to protect and uphold fundamental human rights in Africa and elsewhere. On this commemorative occasion of the 17th anniversary of the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, our shared dream of a prosperous, poverty-free, a just, peaceful, democratic and well-governed Continent should be foremost in our list of priorities.
For its part, the African Union Commission has been making tremendous efforts to promote and protect human rights on the Continent. One of the more recent initiatives includes the development of a Human Rights Strategy, with the participation of the African Union’s organs and key stakeholders. This emanates from the AU Strategic Plan (2009-2012) as well as Resolution 60/1 of the 2005 Outcomes of the World Summit of the UN General Assembly. The Strategy is centrally focused on how Africa can optimize the available human rights instruments and institutions to ensure the respect for human rights, at continental, global and most importantly national levels and thus, positively impact the lives of our peoples.
The Human Rights Strategy under preparation places emphasises on achieving harmonized and coordinated actions from relevant regional and national institutions that are part of the tapestry of the African Human Rights System. I remain most confident that when this Strategy is finalized and adopted, it will become a central framework for deeper engagements in Africa to confront human rights challenges.
By Her Excellency Mrs. Julia Dolly Joiner
Commissioner for Political Affairs, African Union, on behalf of H.E Dr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission on the commemoration of the 17th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide.
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