19 December 2012

Rwanda: Scholars Raise Awareness On Genocide Prevention

HAVING experienced the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, Rwandans are determined to ensure that what happened here does not happen anywhere else in the world, the Prime Minister, Pierre Damien Habumuremyi, told an international meeting yesterday.

He was opening an international conference on "Preventing Genocide" that was held in Kigali on the occasion of the 64th anniversary of the United Nations convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide.

The one-day conference drew more than 100 local and international scholars, activists, lawyers, government leaders and others to discuss key themes on the prevention of genocide.

Habumuremyi told participants that in the aftermath of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed more than one million people, Rwanda came up with mechanisms of ensuring the tragedy does not happen again.

"Rwanda has opened a chapter of unity and reconciliation, through participatory jurisdictions (Gacaca), and institutions like commissions of unity and reconciliation, that of human rights, and the office of the Ombudsman," he said.

Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, a professor in Genocide studies and prevention at George Mason University in USA, detailed the 10 stages of genocide which start with classification of people.

In his order where each stage corresponds to a preventive measure, extermination comes at the 9th position, followed by the denial of genocide.

One of the factors the scholar outlined as the major catalysts of genocide is lack of ready rapid response forces to contain it in its initial stages.

By this, Stanton expressed disappointment in how the United Nations' Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR) simply looked on as thousands of innocent people were butchered daily for over 100 days.

Another preventive measure in Rwanda, besides the law on genocide prevention, is the establishment of a research and documentation centre on genocide under the National Commission on fight against Genocide.

That centre carries out research on genocide and is in charge of the archives of the Gacaca jurisdictions, which concluded in June this year, after trying close to two million Genocide-related cases.

Habumuremyi noted that the country's active involvement in peacekeeping activities in various countries underscores Rwanda's commitment to protecting lives.

"We cannot turn the clock back nor can we undo the harm caused, but we have the power to determine the future and to ensure that what happened never happens again," he concluded, drawing from President Kagame's words.

Jean Damascène Gasanabo, director of the research and documentation centreat CNLG, stressed that conferences like this are important forums for sober discussion on how the world can prevent human tragedy.

Gasanabo expressed the need to commit to the notion of "never again" that became a world motto after the crimes of the Holocaust against the Jews, but didn't prevent Genocide in different countries, including Rwanda.

The Convention for the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide was adopted by the UN General Assembly on December, 9 1948 and came into force on January 12, 1951.

Rwanda ratified it on April 16, 1975.

But despite that, the country witnessed the Genocide against Tutsi, two decades later by this same government, having prepared it for decades.

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