Rwandan Officials Differ with UN on How to Frame Genocide on Its 23rd Anniversary

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A diplomatic row between Rwanda and the United Nations over the definition of what unfolded in Rwanda in 1994 as genocide has overshadowed the preparations for this year’s commemoration event. As an expression of displeasure with the United Nations’ reference to the mass killings in 1994 as “Genocide in Rwanda,” officials of Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s administration have indicated that they will snub today’s ceremony hosted by the U.N. in Nairobi, Kenya.

In an exclusive interview with The Standard, Rwandan High Commissioner to Kenya Ambassador James Kimonyo said that the mission has decided to commemorate the 23rd anniversary of the Genocide Against the Tutsi outside the U.N. premises, and the event organized by the Embassy will take place at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC), not at the U.N. facility like it was the case in the past. Mr. Kimonyo explained that during 22nd Commemoration event at the UN he differed with the framing of the genocide that saw the killing of about a million people in almost 100 days. The envoy says that massacres in Rwanda in 1994 were directed at a specific group of people, the Tutsi, and that it was incorrect to refer to it as ‘Genocide in Rwanda’.

“It is wrong to continue referring to the genocide against a particular community generally as genocide in Rwanda,” he said. “This makes it sound like people from another country committed acts of genocide against Rwandans in general, yet it was one Rwandan community instigated by the state who turned against another, and that is a historical fact,” he said, adding that the right appellation of what happened is “Genocide Against the Tutsi.” He explained that some Hutus and any other persons who opposed the genocide were also killed. The high commissioner emphasized that commemoration events will continue to be held outside United Nations premises until the U.N. calls this horrific event in its real name. He, however, welcomed U.N. officials to deliver the message on behalf of the secretary-general on that day. But the U.N., through its spokesperson Nasser Ega Mussa, said the parallel events would allow a larger and more diverse participation than previous years in remembering one of the worst atrocities in recent times. “The U.N.’s event will be guided by the United Nations General Assembly’s resolution adopted in 2004,” he said. In a separate interview with two survivors of the Genocide Against the Tutsi who live and work in Nairobi, they expressed their support to the High Commission’s decision on this matter.

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