Thank you for joining us to mark the 26th Commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi, from wherever you were able to join us from. Please see below a recap of how we marked Kwibuka26 in the UK & Ireland and the video messages shared:
Each year, hundreds of guests come together at St Marylebone Parish Church in the heart of London to mark this somber and significant occasion in respect of the victims and to stand with the survivors, which was not possible this year due to the measures in place in light of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The High Commission invited and encouraged guests to observe a minute silence from home and a lighting of a candle for those who were able to at 3:00pm on Tuesday 7th April 2020. The moment of silence was followed by the launch of a video-messages led by the High Commissioner and Rector of St Marylebone Parish, and which also saw survivors, community members, friends of Rwanda and UK officials provide their messages for Kwibuka26.
High Commissioner Yamina Karitanyi called for all to “work even harder to remain on the good side of history by doing our part collectively and individually” in order to ensure “perpetrators face prosecution and remain haunted by the cruelty of the heinous acts they committed.”
The High Commissioner’s message focused on the fight against genocide denial and a great push for justice, which was echoed by Linda Melvern, author and investigative journalist, who cautioned that denial involves “a campaign to rewrite history”, calling for denial to be “challenged wherever it occurs.” Dr. Michael Gray, Director of Studies of Harrow School noted that denial is “to flagrantly seek to undermine truth.”
In his message, The Revd. Canon Dr Stephen Evans, Rector of St Marylebone Parish Church, who for a number of years has hosted the annual commemoration service in London, encouraged us all “to build a family, a society, a nation, a world in which difference can be celebrated not extinguished.” He concluded by providing his blessing to the people of Rwanda in Kinyarwanda and English.
Looking ahead to Rwanda’s time as Chair-in-Office of the Commonwealth, and expressing the Commonwealth’s solidarity with the people of Rwanda, The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Baroness Patricia Scotland QC commended the “fortitude and dignity” with which Rwanda has come together as a nation “in a spirit of reconciliation to rebuild.” The Rt Hon Andrew MitchellMP, Conservative Member of Parliament and founder of Project Umubano also provided his message of support to all the victims and acknowledged “there is still work to be done in Britain” in respect of bringing perpetrators to justice. “We will not stop campaigning for [the killers] to stand trial. We undertake on this 26th Commemoration to continue to fight inaction, indifference and silence.” declared author and journalist, Andrew Wallis.
The series of video messages also saw a message of solidarity from first-team players from Arsenal FC; David Luiz, Reiss Nelson, Pablo Mari and Alexandre Lacazette, who emphasised their solidarity with the people of Rwanda. Luiz, who visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial with his family last year as part of the club’s partnership with Visit Rwanda, spoke on behalf of the north London football club, expressing that “we are one family.’’
Members of the Rwandese community in the UK, including survivors, provided their heartfelt messages and voices to the video-based commemorative activities. Chantal Uwamahoro, Deputy Chair of survivor’s association URUMURI UK, said that she feels her survival comes with a “duty and responsibility…to honour and be the voice.” A young community member, Denzel Kira, a child of a survivor dedicated a moving poem to his ‘’Sogokuru’’ (grand father), who he only got to know through the memories of his mother.
Speaking on the role of the media in the Genocide against the Tutsi, Alice Musabende, survivor and Cambridge University Gates Scholar, compellingly challenged international media “In this era of…fake news…and disinformation, isn’t it time curbing genocide revisionism and denial was made part and parcel of the promise of ‘Never again’?”.
Members of the diplomatic corps, UK government officials and peers who had been invited to the service, took to Twitter to share their messages of solidarity, including the Ambassador of Israel to the UK, H.E. Mark Regev, UK Shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy MP, and Lord Jack McConnell, amongst others.
This Kwibuka26 video-led commemoration also included messages from pupils of Putney High School, one of the UK’s leading independent girls’ schools, as well as poems and songs, which will continue to be shared on the mission’s social channels throughout the official commemoration period.
We kindly invite you to view and share the video messages if you haven’t already, and to use the tools available through technology to renew commitments to fight genocide denial wherever it occurs and to oppose all those who seek to undermine the truth and deny justice to the victims.