Daily Archives: April 7, 2019

Rwanda mourns the dead, 25 years since genocide began

Rwanda on Sunday begins one hundred days of mourning for over 800,000 people slaughtered in a genocide that shocked the world, a quarter of a century on from the day it began.

President Paul Kagame will start a week of commemoration activities by lighting a remembrance flame at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where more than 250,000 victims are believed to be buried, mainly from the Tutsi people.

They are only some of those killed by the genocidal Hutu forces, members of the old army and militia forces called the “Interahamwe”, that began their bloody campaign of death on April 7, 1994, the day after the assassination of President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu.

Some were shot; most were beaten or hacked by machetes.

The killings lasted until Kagame, then 36, led the mainly Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) into Kigali on July 4, ending the slaughter and taking control of the devastated country.

Kagame, now 61 and who has been in power ever since, will lead the memorial to the dead.

After lighting the flame, Kagame is expected to make a key speech at the Kigali Convention Centre, a dome-shaped auditorium in the centre of the capital, a modern building emblematic of the regeneration of Rwanda since the dark days of 1994.

Kagame will then preside over a vigil at the country’s main football ground. The Amahoro National Stadium — whose name means “peace” in Rwanda’s Kinyarwanda language — was used by the UN during the genocide to protect thousands of people of the Tutsi minority from being massacred on the streets outside.

– Deep trauma –

In past years, ceremonies have triggered painful flashbacks for some in the audience, with crying, shaking, screaming and fainting amid otherwise quiet vigils.

For many survivors, forgiveness remains difficult when the bodies of their loved ones have not been found and many killers are still free.

A quarter of a century on, the east African nation has recovered economically, but the trauma still casts a dark shadow.

Kagame has kept an authoritarian hold as he steers the small, landlocked East African nation through economic recovery. Growth in 2018 was a heady 7.2 percent, according to the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Some 10 leaders are expected to pay their respects, mostly from nations across the continent.

Former colonial ruler Belgium is sending Prime Minister Charles Michel.

But French President Emmanuel Macron is not attending, with France represented by Herve Berville, a 29-year old Rwandan-born member of parliament in Paris.

Rwanda has accused France of being complicit in the genocide through its support for the Hutu-led government and of helping perpetrators escape.

Paris has consistently denied complicity in the bloodshed, though former president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2010 acknowledged France had made “serious errors of judgement”.

On Friday, Macron appointed an expert panel to investigate France’s actions at the time.

Macron is not the only notable absence; former ally Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni is also not attending, amid accusations by Kigali that Uganda is supporting Rwandan rebels.

Source: Seychelles News Agency

Rwanda’s President Leads Ceremonies Marking Genocide Anniversary

KIGALI Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame has led commemorations marking the 25 anniversary of the genocide that killed hundreds of thousands of people with a stern warning to those with plans to destabilize the country.

For those from here or from outside who think our country has not seen enough of a mess and want to mess with us, in defense of those children you saw and our nation, I want to say, we will mess up with them big time, Kagame told thousands of people gathered to remember those killed in 1994. We claim no special place, but we have a place to claim. The fighting spirit is alive in us. What happened here will never happen again.

In the lead up to 25th genocide commemoration, tensions have been mounting between Rwanda and Uganda.

Rwanda accused Uganda of supporting groups opposed to the government in Kigali. Uganda rejects those accusations.

A frequent guest to commemoration events, Uganda President Yoweli Museveni was absent this time. He was represented by his foreign affairs minister Sam Kuteesa.

We are the last people in the world who should succumb to complacency. The suffering we have endured should be enough to keep our fighting spirit alive, said Kagame.

The commemoration began with lighting of the flame and laying of wreaths at the Kigali Genocide memorial where close to 250,000 remains were buried. In all, about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by ethnic Hutu extremists.

Honore Gatera, coordinator of Kigali memorial center said the flame they were lighting was a symbol of courage and resilience that Rwanda has shown for the past quarter of a century.

Young Rwandans, aged 25 years and representing the new generation of Rwanda, handed over the flame that will burn for the next 100 days to Kagame. One of them said This is a light of remembrance, the light of life.

President Kagame thanked countries who have been with Rwanda through its journey of reconstruction.

On a day like this, when language fails, the first words that come, are words of gratitude. To you, the friends by our side on this heavy day, including the different leaders present, we say thank you, he said. In 1994, there was no hope, only darkness. Today, light radiates from this place.

President Paul Kagame also paid tribute to foreigners who helped survivors and later died too.

Joining us today are families from other countries, whose husbands, fathers, sisters, and aunts were claimed by the same deadly ideology, said Kagame. The only comfort we can offer is the commonality of sorrow, and the respect owed to those who had the courage to do the right thing.

A notable absentee at the commemoration was French President Emmanuel Macron, whose country stands accused of aiding the genocide. Macron proposed an annual day of commemoration for the Rwanda genocide on Sunday, according to AFP.

A Rwandan-born Member of Parliament Herve Berville who was orphaned in the 1993 violence led the French delegation.

Belgium, which colonized Rwanda. was represented by Prime Minister Charles Michel, who admitted part of responsibility of Belgium in the 1994 genocide.

Michel said genocide was a failure of the international community. He said he was moved by the courage, resilience and empathy of the Rwandan people.

In a tweet, British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote, Today I am reflecting on the thousands of lives lost in the Rwandan genocide 25 years ago. This was a tragedy and it remains as important as ever to make sure such atrocities are not repeated.

Sunday’s ceremonies marked the beginning of 100 days commemoration.

Source: Voice of America

South Africa: Task team to address attacks on foreigners

PRETORIA, A task team has been setup by government and members of the Diplomatic Corps to look into the sprouting of acts of violence against foreign nationals.

The development was announced by International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) Minister Lindiwe Sisulu at the conclusion of a meeting with ambassadors from African countries in South Africa. The meeting was also attended by Police Minister Bheki Cele and Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

The meeting was a follow up to the first meeting that took place on Monday, where the Ministers together with the members of the Diplomatic Corps committed to working together to find a lasting solution to issues relating to incidents of attacks between South Africans and foreign nationals.

On Friday, Sisulu said the task team would comprise of officials from the DIRCO, Home Affairs, the police and representatives of the diplomatic community. They would put together a consolidated report on the issues raised during the meeting.

The emphasis right now is on the sporadic attacks � their extent, source and how much it costs the taxpayer. In our next session we are hoping to deal with the socio-economic problems that give rise to some of the sporadic attacks, she said.

The Minister emphasised government’s position that foreign nationals who entered the country legally were welcome and that they will be secured.

We are grateful for the kind of interaction we had with the diplomatic corps

We wanted to engage with them on how we would work together to deal with the sporadic attacks on foreign nationals and to find a common way in which we can deal both educating foreign nationals around issues our people might feel sensitive about.

We had brought information at our disposal to assist diplomatic services to understand the problems we are dealing with and how were addressing them, she said.

Should there be a need for any ambassador to meet with any of the ministers, Sisulu said, this would be made possible to deal with the core problems being experienced.

Cele said the meeting had brought a better understanding of issues experienced by South African authorities.

We accept that we do have challenges [and] that we together need to work to find solutions, including the agreement that bi-laterals would be arranged. Several countries are already are calling for them, he said.

He was happy to say there will be a better understanding and better communication going forward to make sure that issues are handled better.

The debate around criminality/xenophobia will continue because we are beginning to understand that these sporadic attacks are usually a reaction to some kind of activity on the ground � that was explained, he said.

DRC Ambassador and Dean of Diplomatic Corps, Bene M’poko, said the ambassadors appreciated the frankness of the meeting, saying it was important for the diplomatic community to get facts so that matters of concern are attended to and resolved.

Source: NAM News Network

South Africa: Pretoria Permanently Withdraws Its Ambassador From Israel

JOHANNESBURG, International Relations Minister Lindiwe Sisulu says withdrawing South Africa ambassador from Tel Aviv is just ‘stage one’ in downgrading relations with Israel.

The South African government has implemented what International Relations Minister Sisulu calls stage one of its programme of downgrading relations with Israel, by withdrawing its ambassador from Tel Aviv permanently.

She announced this in an address to the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) in Johannesburg.

Sisulu also suggested that eventually Israel would no longer have an ambassador in South Africa. If so, the government would be going even further than the ANC did at its conference in December 2017 when it decided to direct the government to immediately and unconditionally downgrade the South African Embassy in Israel to a Liaison Office.

The ANC resolution did not direct the government also to downgrade Israel’s embassy in Pretoria.

Sisulu told SAIIA that the ANC already had no relations with Israel and would like the government to adopt that position as soon as possible.

In her prepared remarks for the SAIIA lecture, Sisulu said that after Israeli security forces had shot Palestinian protesters on the Israel-Gaza border in 2018, Pretoria had immediately recalled South Africa’s ambassador to Israel � Sisa Ngombane � for consultation.

It had also demarche’d the Israeli ambassador to South Africa, Lior Keinan. To demarche is diplomatic speak for summoning a foreign diplomat and delivering a protest.

We are in the process of following the downgrade resolution of the ruling party and stage one has been completed, Sisulu continued.

Our ambassador is back in South Africa and we will not be replacing him. Our liaison office in Tel Aviv will have no political mandate, no trade mandate and no development co-operation mandate.

It will not be responsible for trade and commercial activities. The focus of the Liaison Office would be on consular and the facilitation of people-to-people relations.

Source: NAM News Network

UN Appeals for Humanitarian Truce in Libya

CAIRO The United Nations has issued an “urgent appeal” for a two-hour truce in the suburbs of Tripoli to evacuate civilians and those wounded, as forces loyal to military commander Gen. Khalifa Haftar continue a push aimed at taking the capital.

Libya’s U.N.-backed prime minister, Fayez Sarraj, has called the action by Haftar an attempted coup. Haftar and his forces appear to have gained ground along the outskirts of the capital, but Sarraj said government troops are prepared to confront them.

UNSMIL, the U.N. mission in Libya, has urged all parties in the area to respect a two-hour humanitarian truce.

In anticipation of violence, the United States has pulled a contingent of troops out of Tripoli.

“The security realities on the ground in Libya are growing increasingly complex and unpredictable,” said Marine Corps Gen. Thomas Waldhauser, head of U.S. Africa Command.

The U.S. has maintained a small number of troops in Libya to provide support for diplomatic missions, counterterrorism activities and improving regional security.

Arab media broadcast video of Haftar’s forces entering the gates of Tripoli’s now-closed international airport, before taking positions outside terminal buildings and along the now-unused runways. There did not appear to be any resistance to the takeover.

Arab media also showed residents of neighborhoods near the capital cheering as Haftar’s forces entered. Saudi-owned al-Arabiya TV said Haftar’s forces had entered the Khalat al-Fargan district of the capital. VOA could not independently confirm the claim.

The tensions in the region have led the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) to relocate some of its forces from Libya. But AFRICOM, which provides military support to diplomatic missions and counterterrorism activities in Libya, says it remains committed to a secure and stable state, and will “assess the feasibility for renewed U.S. military presence, as appropriate.”

Four towns controlled

Haftar’s military spokesman, Col. Ahmad Almismari, told a press conference Saturday afternoon that forces under Haftar’s command were gaining ground.

He said Haftar’s forces were in control of the towns of Gharyan, Jendouba, Qasr al-Beshir and Suwani. He said 14 soldiers fighting with the Libyan army had been killed in fighting.

The spokesman said air force planes loyal to Haftar had launched at least four raids near the Bab al-Aziziya military compound south of the capital, but that there were no casualties. He said, however, that planes from the nearby town of Misrata, which opposes Haftar, had killed a number of civilians in a raid over the town of Ghariyan, which Haftar now controls.

As the fighting appeared to spread, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres insisted, during a visit to Jordan, that the U.N. “would never give up its support [for] the Libyan people.”

U.N. special envoy Ghassan Salame, who is in Libya, said he was monitoring the situation closely.

He said tensions were increasing in a number of places in and around Tripoli and that he was keeping tabs on the situation. He said it was urgent that tension in those areas be ended and that civilians’ safety be ensured.

In Cairo, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi called on the international community to take action to restore stability to the Libyan capital. Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri told visiting Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov that Libya has been out of control since the revolution that overthrew Moammar Gadhafi in 2011.

Shoukri said the situation in Libya has been worrisome over the past few years with respect to the lack of stability and spread of terrorism, increasing the danger to the Libyan people.

Lavrov: Commence talks

Lavrov urged all parties to stop fighting and start negotiating and said the international community must prevent the situation from escalating. He urged Libya’s warring parties to cease military operations and sit down at the negotiating table.

U.N. envoy Salame, for his part, insisted that “every effort would be made to hold the upcoming national dialogue conference” in the southern town of Ghadames, “unless the situation on the ground made it impossible to do so.”

Source: Voice of America