“They should come here to the Genocide memorial and see how many people are buried there. They dare to say that we didn’t lose people; would I be here living on my own as if I have never had children? That is all I can say. They should all come and see it with their own eyes,” Josephine Kankesha, who then broke down in tears in a video that surfaced on twitter during the first week of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi commemoration week.
While it is hard to not be overwhelmed by emotions after watching the video, we should be ashamed by the fact that even after losing their loved ones, Genocide survivors are put in a position to prove why their lives changed completely; why they cry, why they are alone, and how their grief is not exaggerated.
We have been told several times, even taught in school that the last stage of a genocide is its denial. But how many times have we stood up for people like Kankesha to protect them from such torture? Because beyond the anger and grieving, they have to prove how they were not the perpetrators of the genocide themselves, how they are not lying because “there weren’t as many Tutsi people,” and how it isn’t true that “they brought it to themselves anyway,” among other statements that give the impression that maybe, their loved ones didn’t matter at all.
While most genocide deniers and revisionists are either genocide fugitives or their descendants, they also remain the main source of false testimonies to the unwitting or their sympathisers. And so we have not only insensitive, but also minimising statements.
We have children of genocide perpetrators masquerading as survivors, giving testimonies of how the RPA-Inkotanyi “killed” their parents. Some even hold “memorial” events, but not for the souls of innocent people their parents and relatives killed by their parents.
These people are not ignorant about what happened; they don’t need education! 28 years after a million Tutsi people were killed, they are not done yet. Nevertheless, they know exactly how many people were killed, skulls of infants that were smashed on walls, bodies that were chopped.
Linda Melvern, British investigative journalist told a The New Times journalist in an interview that: “Denial is the most extreme offense to the survivors. For them, it ensures the crime has no end and it destroys the truth and their memories.”
Make no mistake, genocide deniers know exactly what they are doing when they unapologetically say that people, including Kankesha’s children deserved to die, or didn’t die (as if they never existed).
But if we really mean it when we say “never again”, and when we swear to ourselves that we will make sure there never happens a genocide in our country again, we must first fight the ongoing stage which is genocide denial.
Of course, we could not save the victims while they were being dehumanized in the worst forms, when they screamed for help, and when they bled their last drop. Some of us were hiding, not born yet and maybe in the same conditions but only a little luckier. But what are we doing about it now that we are here? Now that we have grown up and are obliged to not only be there for Genocide survivors as they mourn their loved ones, but also protect them from those who are clearly not done with them yet?
It would be such a shame, even absurd, that people our age and even younger were putting their lives at risk to save lives, and here we are just side-lining the only possible thing we can do for Genocide survivors.
In 2022, young people still go as far as committing Genocide ideology crimes, such as killing Genocide survivors’ cows with machetes, sending them threats, even killing them, among other inhumane actions.
28 years after the Genocide when some children have no clue who their families were or how they were killed, when mass graves are still being discovered, when women are forced to love children born out of rape; the burden to fight Genocide denial should not be on the victims.
In an informal discussion, a friend once told me that during the liberation struggle, the commander in chief, Paul Kagame would tell his soldiers to persist “just one more minute.” I urge the youth today to let the survivors have just one more minute to grieve in peace, to live dignified lives, and to honour their memories without having to explain to anyone why it is important to them.
Frantz Fanon wrote: “Each generation must discover its mission, fulfil it or betray it…” While we sustain what has been achieved, let us protect Genocide survivors because at last, they have us. Wouldn’t we do anything to undo history if we could? But we can’t. Part of our mission today is to fight Genocide denial, and we have the right skills, the time, and whatever it takes to make sure Kankesha and other Genocide survivors feel safe in their country.
Take time and inform people around you the truth about the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, don’t fear to refute false claims, and send messages of hope to survivors, to make sure they know we believe them, and will protect them at all costs. Let us not only remember.
The author is a journalist.
The views expressed in this article are of the writer