Speech by Margot Wallström at Commemoration Ceremony Marking 25 Years since the Genocide in Rwanda
Stockholm 10 april 2019
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Ambassador, Speaker of the Parliament, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am humbled and honoured to take part in this ceremony to commemorate the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, 25 years ago.
Special persons I have not met,
Dear friends I have not made,
Whose pictures I can still see,
But whose features will no more be,
The voices I have not heard,
The laughter I have not shared,
The treasure we have all lost,
The mother I loved the most,
I miss you, like a fish misses the sea.
In this poem, to “Rwandians I didn’t grow to see”, Thierry Gatete captures some of the unspeakable. It has now been 25 years.
To me, this is an occasion to talk about three things: remembrance, reflection and commitment.
Because these are days of remembrance. All over the world, we remember and honour the mothers, the fathers, the sons and daughters, the friends and relatives, who were murdered, because of their ethnicity.
We share the pain with those who survived. We pay our respect to those who opposed the genocide, or were killed trying to protect Tutsis.
We will never forget you.
Remembrance also means passing on the memory to the young: those who were not born when the Genocide occurred. Because it will be up to them, not to repeat the failures of the generations before them.
This is also a time for reflection. Long before 1994, the international community had pledged Never again. And yet, we failed to prevent the killings and stop the Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda. How was it allowed to happen? Why did we not react, when we saw the signs?
The failure of the international community was our collective failure. The UN and the UN Security Council failed Rwanda. The world failed Rwanda.
One of the strongest testimonies of this comes from the general Roméo Dallaire, who at the time lead the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda. In one of his books, he wrote that the
“international community, of which the UN is only a symbol, failed to move beyond self-interest for the sake of Rwanda. While most nations agreed that something should be done they all had an excuse why they should not be the ones to do it. As a result, the UN was denied the political will and material means to prevent the tragedy.”
In a time when the rules based international order is being under question, this is even more critical. The Genocide against Tutsi was, in a way, the uttermost consequence of a failure of the international system to act.
Also here, we must invite the young to reflect – on human rights, human dignity, about exclusion, xenophobia and hate speech. Again: it will be up them, to show that history does not inevitably repeat itself.
This is also a day for commitment. To fighting impunity, to the rule of law and to the respect for human rights.
The government has launched a drive for democracy, which I see as part of this commitment. It is about always defending democracy, human rights and the rule of law. It is about strengthening trust in political institutions and societies, defending freedom of expression and fighting for social justice.
All these are basic prerequisites for peace, reconciliation and prosperity. They are necessary for a sustainable development.
The journey of Rwanda along this path of remembrance, reflection and commitment over the last 25 years has been remarkable.
Today, Rwanda is a transformed country, thanks to the determination of its people to rebuild society and to pursue national reconciliation. The Rwandans have transformed a legacy of darkness and despair into light and hope for the future.
Sweden’s support in this process has been firm. We are a committed partner to Rwanda in the pursuit of accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims of the crimes. We supported the build-up of the Rwandan justice system. We support nationwide peace education for young Rwandans who were not born when the Genocide against Tutsi took place.
Sweden remains the main donor to the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where 250 000 victims are buried.
Our Prime Minister has announced that in 2020, Sweden will organise an international conference on genocide. The starting point is the memory of the Holocaust. The aim is to exchange experiences for safeguarding democracy and for combating racism, discrimination and exclusion. Rwanda’s experience will be invaluable.
We must never forget the one hundred days of hell in Rwanda a quarter century ago. We will unite and renew our efforts to make sure genocide does not happen again. In remembering, reflecting and committing to a better future, we learn from history, and we honour the victims of Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.