08.04.08 - BELGIUM/GENOCIDE - RWANDANS IN BELGIUM COMMEMORATE 1994 GENOCIDE

Brussels, 8 April 2008 (FH) - Rwandans in Brussels Monday commemorated the 14th genocide anniversary with recrudescence, according to some participants, of negationnist ideas and deep divisions over the victims and the persons responsible for the 1994 genocide.
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"Revisionism and negationnism are maintained and spread by the same who planned, organized and financed the genocide", stated Ambassador Joseph Bonesha in a brief speech at the Embassy before a crowd of about 100 people.

“Some claim that it was a popular war of self-defence, others of a spontaneous reaction of the population following the death of the Head of State[Juvenal Habyarimana] or of a double genocide", he added. He accused Hutu extremists who executed and carried out the massacres.

The day before, Sunday (April 6), about 60 Rwandans who were protesting in front of the court building were arrested by the Belgian police. The protest, qualified as "negationnist" by the IBUKA association of survivors and the Rwandan Community in Belgium (RCB), had been prohibited by the Mayor of Brussels.

In an open letter sent to the mayor, Joseph Matata, the main organizer and President of the Center for the Fight against Impunity and Injustice in Rwanda (CLIIR), claimed that the protest was in the "memory of all the victims of the Rwandan genocide killed in Rwanda and in the DRC".

According to him, with the banning of the rally, the authorities of Brussels succumbed to the "blackmail of the pro-Kagame networks and lobbies, which are many in Belgium … in order to muzzle the non-Tutsi victims of Rwandan genocide".

"Hutu victims were massacred by the Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF)", he alleged.

The protestors had chosen the date of 6 April, the day of the attack against the presidential plane, rather than the 7th, the usual day of the commemoration, to assert the link between the event and the start of the genocide.

According to UN estimates, the genocide resulted in 800 000 deaths, primarily of the ethnic Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates.

Disagreements among the Rwandan community, Le Soir, wrote in a series of articles published on 5 April, underlined the complex presence of tribal drifts and heinous speeches. One article was titled "Some still have machetes on their minds".

There were also reports of bitter disputes between Tutsis and Hutus in the streets and coffee shops of Brussels.

Placide Kalisa, President of IBUKA in Belgium asked the UN during the occasion to transfer the cases of suspects from the ICTR to Rwandan courts. A call also sounded by the Ambassador of Rwanda.

In the middle of the day, the crowd at the Embassy went to lay flowers at the foot of the memorial of the genocide inaugurated in 2004, located not far from the commune of Woluwe-Saint-Pierre.

Then, at 7:30 p.m some 800 people marched in silence with candles to the Royal place at the court building of Brussels before heading towards a memorial vigil organized at the arts centre of the commune of Auderghem

BF/PB/MM/SC

© Hirondelle News Agency