On the 16th January 2010, Mrs Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, having stayed abroad for 16 years, returned to her country to register her political party and run for presidential elections. It was her first time back in Rwanda since the genocide committed against Tutsi people. On her very first day in Rwanda, she went to lay a wreath of flowers at the Gisozi Genocide Memorial Centre and made a speech on unity and reconciliation.
Her speech, translated in English below, has been submitted as evidence in the court of law on divisionism and revisionism charges leveled against her. We took a close look at the content of her speech and we are asking our readers which part is really evidence of divisionism.
“I would like to say that today, I came back to my country after 16 years, and there was a tragedy that took place in this country. We know very well that there was a genocide, extermination. Therefore, I could not have returned after 16 years to the same country after such actions took place. They took place when I was not in the country. I could not have fallen asleep without first passing by the place where those actions took place. I had to see the place. I had to visit the place.
“The flowers I brought with me are a sign of remembrance from the members of my party FDU and its executive committee. They gave me a message to pass by here and tell Rwandans that what we wish for is for us to work together, to make sure that such a tragedy will never take place again. That is one of the reasons why the FDU Party made a decision to return to the country peacefully, without resorting to violence. Some think that the solution to Rwanda’s problems is to resort to armed struggle. We do not believe that shedding blood resolves problems. When you shed blood, the blood comes back to haunt you.
“Therefore, we in FDU wish that all we Rwandans can work together, join our different ideas so that the tragedy that befell our nation will never happen again. It is clear that the path of reconciliation has a long way to go. It has a long way to go because if you look at the number of people who died in this country, it is not something that you can get over quickly. But then again, if you look around you realize that there is no real political policy to help Rwandans achieve reconciliation. For example, if we look at this memorial, it only stops at people who died during the Tutsi genocide. It does not look at the other side – at the Hutus who died during the genocide. Hutus who lost their people are also sad and they think about their lost ones and wonder, ‘When will our dead ones be remembered?’
“For us to reach reconciliation, we need to empathize with everyone’s sadness. It is necessary that for the Tutsis who were killed, those Hutus who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it. It is also necessary that for the Hutus who were killed, those people who killed them understand that they need to be punished for it too. Furthermore, it is important that all of us, Rwandans from different ethnic groups, understand that we need to unite, respect each other and build our country in peace.
“What brought us back to the country is for us to start that path of reconciliation together and find a way to stop injustices so that all of us Rwandans can live together with basic freedoms in our country.”
Since the day she made this speech on January 16th 2010, Ms. Ingabire Umuhoza continued to draw sharp criticism with regard to her position on the country’s law on genocide as well as being accused of inciting the public with inflammatory remarks.
In an interview accorded to News Time Africa, she commented on her own speech and stated that ”the big problem we have in Rwanda; and that’s the difference between us and the regime of general (President) Paul Kagame, we think if we are to really achieve reconciliation of the Rwandan people, we need to fully talk about what happened, why genocide was committed in the country, why the crimes against humanity were committed, whose responsibility was it and what we have to do together as Rwandan people to avoid the same problem in the future. Talking about it, we trust it is the only way to achieve total reconciliation.”
In an article on The Rising Continent, the author raises the same question about the speech and “ had most of the difficulties trying to find in above text some even far related invocations or references which could direct the prosecutor to any of the crimes Victoire Ingabire is accused of. My efforts remained futile. I had only to guess. Since she is clearly talking of Tutsis and Hutus, the two main Rwandan ethnic groups, and what happened in 1994, or before and even after, I had only to use my imagination and come to some conclusion that she must’ve stated something that the Rwandan government did not want to hear publicly.”
“Victoire Ingabire was and still is publicly requesting punishment for all the criminals who saddened Rwandans (Tutsis as well as Hutus), and sincere reconciliation among citizens from all ethnic groups. Unless the Rwandan government and its ruling party – Rwandan Patriotic Front, don’t want any of these for the population, there would be serious doubts about what they have been preaching inside the country and to the rest of the world on these specific issues.” (read The Rising Continent here)