The Igbo Elders Council in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) on Friday accused security agencies of indiscriminately killing Igbo youths in the South-East, in the guise of fighting IPOB and ESN, two separatist groups.
Speaking at a news conference in Abuja, Chairman of the group, a former Governor of Anambra State, Chief Chukwuemeka Ezeife, said dozens of young people, mostly male, are being extrajudicially executed on a daily basis by security operatives in the region.
“We condemn without any reservation the destruction of public properties in the South-East, because it is not in our character to indulge in arson, brigandage,” Ezeife said.
“We believe however that it is not fair and just to use a sledge hammer to kill harmless flies.
“Security agencies now indiscriminately invade private homes at odd hours, in the same guise of fishing out presumed IPOB and ESN members.
“They arrest men and sometimes shoot innocent and hapless youths.
“We therefore call on President Muhamamdu Buhari, the United Nations, the European Union, African Union, ECOWAS, to take urgent and necessary action to stop the current genocide against the Igbos in the South-East and parts of the South-South.”
‘In the language they understand’
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier this month threatened to deal with IPOB “in the language they understand”, a statement that sparked angry reactions from many Nigerians as it referenced Nigeria’s bloody civil war.
Millions of Igbos died during the civil war.
However, the Muhammadu Buhari administration has since doubled down on its decision to go on the offensive against IPOB members, who have been designated as terrorists.
IPOB is advocating the breakaway of a chunk of the country’s southern region to create the Republic of Biafra.
“A terrorist organisation (IPOB) poses a significant threat to the safety and security of Nigerian citizens,” the Presidency said in a statement on Saturday.
“When the President said that they will be treated ‘in a language they understand,’ he merely reiterated that their force shall be met with force. It is a basic principle of security services response world over.
“This is not promotion of hate, but a pledge to uphold citizens’ right to freedom from harm. The government cannot be expected to capitulate to terrorists.”
Mukakamanzi appears embarrassed for breaking down at the sombre memorial, lined with coffins, torn and bloodstained clothes and rosaries.
“I don’t know what came over me, I never cry,” she says, gripping a railing on the memorial’s perimeter wall.
“I was looking to see if I could spot my mother’s clothes but I couldn’t see them,” she says bleakly.
The slaughter of Rwanda’s Tutsi minority was sparked by the assassination of president Juvenal Habyarimana — although the bloodbath had long been in preparation.
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Habyarimana, from the Hutu majority, was shot down in Kigali.
The plane was struck by at least one missile as it came in to land at Kigali, also killing Burundi’s president Cyprien Ntaryamira, another Hutu, on board.
The attack shattered a fragile peace process, triggering government-orchestrated massacres by Hutus that also targeted moderates in their own community.
– Killing machine –
Mukakamanzi carries with her a past of almost indescribable suffering, a burden that she shoulders by a steely will to survive. Despite her ordeal, she is a bubbly and gutsy businesswoman.
During several hours of interviews with an AFP journalist at Kibuye near Lake Kivu in December, Mukakamanzi recounted the nightmare months of 1994.
In the first weeks of the genocide, her family’s home was burned down. The family fled, seeking refuge at the Gatwaro stadium like thousands of other Tutsis, who had been promised the gendarmes would protect them.
But the reality was the opposite.
Like the Home Saint Jean hotel or the Kibuye church — whose priest, Mukakamanzi’s uncle, was thrown off the bell tower — the stadium was attacked by the extremist Hutu militia, the Interahamwe.
The notorious group was a killing machine, created to torture and massacre Tutsis.
“We heard gunshots from far away and saw the Interahamwe brandishing machetes outside the stadium and shouting ‘Tomorrow it will be your turn’,” Mukakamanzi said.
“We quickly realised then that death was waiting for us.”
– 10,000 dead –
On the afternoon of April 18, they “kept on firing guns and throwing grenades, and returned in the evening with machetes and knives to kill people,” she said.
The family tried to regroup that night.
The elder brother had already been killed and her father and younger sister were seriously wounded by grenade shrapnel. Her other brother and two nephews had disappeared and were probably dead, she thought.
“I cried and told Mama ‘they are going to die… we are lucky to be alive, we must leave,'” Mukakamanzi says.
But her deeply devout mother refused.
She said she had sworn before God “never to leave Daddy, either in good times or bad.”
She relates slowly, with great emotion, the last moments with her mother, whom she left kneeling in prayer beside her injured husband and younger daughter.
“I told her: ‘Goodbye, Mama. We’ll meet in heaven’.”
The Interahamwe stormed the stadium that night.
By the time they had finished their work, ten thousand people who had been sheltering at the stadium the previous morning lay dead.
Emerging from the memorial, Mukakamanzi points to a thickly wooded mountainside through which she fled.
– Baby buried alive –
She lived like a hunted animal the next few weeks, hiding in the forest and only emerging at night.
One day she came across a hostile group. She was stripped and attacked. A woman then plunged a knife into her breast — a wound that caused a horrendous swelling, Mukakamanzi says.
She tried to go to the home of her godmother’s brother in a school in Kibuye but found no trace of him.
“There were bodies strewn all over the school,” she remembers.
Discovered by an Interahamwe group, Mukakamanzi — fatigued and famished — was asked to “dig a hole to bury a baby alive”.
“I refused… they were going to kill me anyway,” she says, recalling the incident with glassy eyes.
“The Interahamwe dug a hole and put the baby in it… I can still see it shaking its head trying to get the soil out of its mouth.”
She was then beaten with mallets and left there.
In these bleakest hours came a ray of hope. She was found by a young Hutu man who was deeply devout and promised to hide her in his house in a locked room.
But one day she was discovered by the man’s mother who raised a furore, shouting “There is a cockroach (a pejorative term for Tutsis) here.”
Mukakamanzi was attacked with machetes, for which she still bears ugly scars on her scalp. She was thrown in the school’s latrines, where corpses had been piled.
– ‘Dogs wanted to eat me’ –
Even so, “nothing can stop fate,” she says.
The young man who had sheltered her returned and used a rope to haul her out of the latrines. But an Interahamwe group arrived, and he fled.
“I was covered in filth, there were worms on my body and I smelt horrible. They said ‘Let her alone, she’s going to die anyway'”.
Then began “the longest journey of my life,” she recalls, describing how she staggered to the local hospital to try to get medical treatment.
“The big problem I had was that the dogs, which were feeding off corpses, wanted to eat me. I had to fight the dogs away with a branch.”
The only silver lining was that Mukakamanzi’s animal-like state prevented her from getting raped.
“I was 21 and looked like an old woman and stank like a corpse,” she says. Even passing militias would let her be, saying “Leave this bit of rubbish, she’s going to die.”
At the hospital in Kibuye “where treating Tutsis was strictly banned,” she succeeded in joining a group of young women who were able to hide in the morgue during daylight hours thanks to the help of a male nurse.
Some nurses would come in secret to treat her, throwing buckets of water over her body to clean her and “wash the insects out of my wounds.”
But one day, the morgue remained closed and the group of young women were found by the Interahamwe and then thrown into prison.
– Life after genocide –
All appeared lost until a Dutch nun from Mukakamanzi’s church turned up at the prison and secured her release by paying the police.
Mukakamanzi took shelter at the home of her elder brother’s friend and at the end of June learnt that French troops had arrived in the town.
She then managed to get to an aid camp run by the French.
Mukakamanzi, like many other survivors, carved out a new life for herself in the bustle and anonymity of the capital Kigali and never once returned to the forest of Rubengera where she had hidden.
But things were never easy for her, even then.
Many of those who escaped the genocide like her have borne numerous sufferings since, adding to the heavy cross they already have to bear.
She married a genocide survivor who suffered from trauma, but they divorced a few years later and she raised their two daughters, now 24 and 20, by herself.
Mukakamanzi joined the Rwandan police force, retiring after 18 years of service to become an entrepreneur. She also survived a serious road accident.
– Justice and survival –
For nearly 10 years now she has been helping a Franco-Rwandan couple, Dafroza and Alain Gauthier, in tracking down genocide suspects sheltering in France.
She has been asked to testify in a Paris court in the trial of Claude Muhayimana, a French-Rwandan accused of transporting the Interahamwe to western Rwanda to carry out massacres.
The trial was to start in February but has been postponed — the Covid pandemic has made it difficult for witnesses to travel to France and give their testimony.
The Kibuye memorial is located near a school. Life has returned to normal here now and the silence is sometimes pierced by the cries of shrieking children.
“My family perished but I am here to get justice, that’s what I can do for my family,” Mukakamanzi says softly.
“What I expect from a trial is relief if justice does its work.
“In all honesty, no survivor can spend a single day without thinking about that. Every gesture reminds you of a family member, a friend. But one shouldn’t think of that all the time, because one also has to live.”
The hills stretch into the distance, their shades of green capped by a gentle mist extending over Lake Kivu.
Gathered around him, the ageing, weather-beaten herders, clutching sticks and wearing trilby hats, talk of wives and children lost.
For weeks the Tutsis of Bisesero held off their local attackers until the extremist Hutu government had militiamen brought in from other regions to launch mass attacks.
An estimated 50,000 people were killed.
“Each time we hear that people on the run have been arrested, it gives us strength,” one of the herders, Narcisse Kabanda, 63, says.
Claude Muhayimana, a former hotel driver in Rwanda who took refuge in France and gained French nationality in 2010, was due to have gone on trial in Paris on February 2.
He is accused of having transported Hutu militiamen to sites in the west, including the Bisesero region, where massacres were carried out.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic making it difficult for witnesses to travel, the opening of the court case has been postponed.
– Race against time –
Aaron Kabogora lost 10 family members in the Bisesero massacres.
“My wife, my children… they were killed in different places, for some, we still haven’t found the bodies,” says the thin-faced 71-year-old, a bullet still lodged in his leg and scars visible on his shoulder.
Gauthier has come especially to see Kabogora. He wants to follow up on some strong testimony in the Muhayimana case that he gathered on a previous visit.
“I was born here, I lived through the genocide here, there are lots of Interahamwe (militia) who passed through here,” Kabogora says.
Gauthier decides on the spot to cite Kabogora in the case so at least one Bisesero survivor will testify.
A few days later proves even more fruitful when he meets for the first time a former close neighbour of Muhayimana, who he hopes will offer some “very precise facts” to the court case.
“It’s essential that those who have seen, and those who know, talk,” he says.
Some of the planners, sponsors and killers of the genocide have faced trial in Rwanda or other countries as well as before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.
But many continue to evade justice.
“It’s a race against the clock,” Rwanda’s Prosecutor General Aimable Havugiyaremye told AFP in an interview in the capital, Kigali.
“As time passes, what’s more difficult is identifying these suspects, even physically,” he said, adding many change identity and nationality, making international cooperation crucial.
He hopes that that will be helped by efforts under way to move online all the witness accounts they have collected so far and by creating a database to share information.
For more than two decades, the Gauthiers have travelled to Rwanda about three times a year during their holidays and now retirement to search for evidence from ex-killers, prisoners and survivors.
They do it as volunteers and on behalf of all victims, they say.
Muhayimana was arrested in 2014 in the northwestern French city of Rouen.
A year earlier, an investigation had been opened due to a case brought by the Collective of Civil Parties for Rwanda (CPCR), an association co-founded by the Gauthiers.
– ‘Our life changed’ –
Nearly 27 years after the genocide, Gauthier still gets emotional talking about the day he had to tell Dafroza that her mother, Suzana, had been shot outside the church in a Kigali parish where she had taken refuge.
“April 6, 1994, that’s when our lives changed — a cataclysm in our lives, like all victims’ families,” he said.
Between 70 and 80 members of her family were killed, Dafroza told AFP, her eyes empty.
“On my mother’s side there were no survivors: my mother, my uncles, nephews were killed,” she said in an interview in their home town of Reims, northeastern France.
While the genocide was under way, Gauthier said the pair, despite their deep shock, fought to raise awareness of what was going on.
“We wrote to politicians, newspapers, we did demonstrations… and we went to work,” the retired teacher and school headmaster said.
Dafroza was employed as a chemical engineer and they had three young children; later, they took in victims’ children too.
Two things would prove decisive in making up their minds to campaign for the prosecution of genocide suspects.
First were the horrifying stories they heard on their initial trips back to Rwanda after the 1994 killings.
Then, in 2001, at the end of a court hearing they were attending in Brussels against four suspects, the founder of a Belgian victims’ association turned to them and said bluntly: “And you in France, what are you doing?”
That same year, the CPCR was set up.
Since then “we haven’t had a single day without talking about the genocide…” Gauthier said.
– ‘Too long’ –
While Rwanda was never a French colony, successive French governments cultivated close ties after the country’s independence in 1962, including training its top military leaders.
France also signed military deals with the Hutu strongman president Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death in 1994 sparked the massacres.
Against the backdrop of these ties, a number of genocide suspects have sought refuge in France.
Rwanda has made 48 extradition requests to France, more than to any other European country.
But France’s highest court has consistently opposed the extradition to Rwanda of suspects accused by Kigali of genocide, on the grounds that the crime was not in the Rwandan statute books at the time of the massacre.
The Gauthiers believe that it has taken the French justice system “too long” to start honing in on suspects, even if things have improved since 2012.
They welcomed the creation of both the position of a special prosecutor in France and a central office for combating crimes against humanity, known by its initials as the OCLCH.
Nevertheless, procedures are slow and time is lost which only helps the perpetrators, they bemoan.
“It’s becoming increasingly difficult to put together cases because many witnesses have died,” Gauthier said.
“Others have failing memories or no longer want to talk” encouraged by the Rwandan authorities to favour reconciliation.
The accused are elderly and “risk never being put on trial,” he said.
And in some areas with few survivors where perpetrators return home after serving lengthy prison sentences, witnesses feel afraid and alone, he added.
In France, conducting a legal case against a Rwandan genocide suspect takes on average 10 years at a cost of a million euros ($1.2 million), said Eric Emeraux, the former OCLCH head.
“The NGOs which do this tracing work are indispensable, because the French state’s resources are not up to the challenge,” he said in Paris.
The Gauthiers have funded their work themselves and thanks to donations made to the association.
– ‘Must hold to account’ –
For his latest trip across Rwanda, Gauthier focussed on gathering evidence for five cases, scattered over 11 areas.
Travelling around Rwanda on roads crowded with motorcycle taxis, women with goods piled high on their heads, dusty trucks and bikes carrying live chickens, Gauthier passes the hours humming along to the latest album by his son-in-law Gael Faye.
Faye is a musician and writer who authored “Small Country” (“Petit Pays”), a hugely successful novel set in the 1990s during the war in Burundi and genocide in Rwanda.
Gauthier is a dual French-Rwandan national, an attachment that dates to when he taught in Rwanda in the early 1970s, in a town where Dafroza was also studying.
Despite nights blighted by insomnia and chronic back pain, he is up at dawn for an invigorating milky ginger tea, before hitting the road again.
In the evening back at his modest hotel, he reads through his notes again, deep in concentration and often consternation, lost in survivors’ accounts.
“For the victims, it’s essential that those who killed their loved ones are held to account, it’s a way for them to rebuild their lives,” Gauthier says.
– Working through the list –
Searches often begin with a tipoff.
One came as an anonymous letter from students about a suspect in western France; another from a friend alerting them to a hospital co-worker.
When the Gauthiers have gathered evidence, they submit a lawsuit to judges in Paris.
On the ground in Rwanda, a network of survivors helps out, as well as Gauthier’s former students, who look for witnesses, translate and draw up lists.
On his December visit, Gauthier had a list of witnesses in the case of a priest under investigation by French authorities since the end of 2019.
He gathered accounts about the suspect’s alleged actions in his church in April 1994, talking discreetly to people away from the public gaze.
In floods of tears, one of them, a woman who said she’d been just 10 years old at the time, told AFP how she had stayed in the church for two weeks, hidden and terrified, among her family’s corpses.
She only came out when bulldozers arrived to put the bodies in a communal grave, she said.
Appalled at what he hears, Gauthier asks two women to put their accounts into writing.
The following week he travels to the southern town of Nyanza to see around 15 people in a case against a former Rwandan policeman.
Philippe Hategekimana has been in provisional detention in France since 2019, suspected of involvement in the genocide.
This time, the task at hand is laborious but crucial — the filling in of documents necessary for submission to the French justice authorities.
To ensure they are accepted, he must check names, ages, witnesses’ relationships to victims — and the correct addresses, no easy matter faced with the reality of rural Rwanda.
Phone calls swiftly follow from hesitant husbands to their wives, checking on children’s ages.
And after a few hours, it’s all wrapped up over beers and goat meat kebabs.
– For critics, they’re too close –
“So, how’s the work going?” a well-known musician calls out to Gauthier in Kigali where he is often recognised in the street.
He regularly goes to the Rwandan public prosecutor’s offices and is in contact with Theoneste Karenzi, who heads the unit in charge of protecting victims and witnesses.
At the age of 16, Karenzi survived alone after his family’s massacre in the western city of Kibuye.
Describing the Gauthiers as “courageous people”, Karenzi said their “contribution is major” in initiating cases against suspects.
But the husband-and-wife team has critics, too.
Detractors claim they are a “network of informers” and criticise their ties with the Rwandan government, which is often accused of clamping down on dissent.
In 2017, President Paul Kagame awarded the couple the National Order for Exceptional Friendship in recognition of their work.
Philippe Meilhac, defence lawyer for about 10 Rwandans in the crosshairs of French justice including Muhayimana, condemns their closeness to the Kigali regime.
He claims that the Gauthiers’ association is “to a certain extent, a technical and political instrument for the Rwandan authorities”.
Canadian journalist Judi Rever, who wrote the controversial book “In Praise of Blood” about alleged crimes by forces of Rwanda’s ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) party, is similarly critical.
Rever, who is accused by Kigali of promoting a revisionist version of the genocide, claims the Gauthiers are working for the RPF.
“In several cases of inquiry, it’s opponents of the RPF or witnesses of RPF crimes who are targeted,” she said in comments to AFP.
But Gauthier says their part is just to get the ball rolling. “We originate the proceedings, but it’s not us who convict, it’s juries made up of citizens,” he said.
“A legal truth emerges from it which corresponds to our expectations but which is not ours,” he added.
For now though, the couple are busy preparing for Muhayimana’s court case, for which no new date has yet been announced.
But afterwards, the Frenchman has promised to return to tell the Bisesero survivors all about the hearing half a world away.
Namibia’s President Hage Geingob on Tuesday said reparations offered by Germany for mass killings in its then colony at the start of the twentieth century were “not acceptable” and needed to be “revised”.
German occupiers in Namibia killed tens of thousands of indigenous Herero and Nama people in 1904-1908 massacres, which historians have called the first genocide of the 20th century.
In 2015, the two countries started negotiating an agreement that would combine an official apology by Germany as well as development aid.
Geingob on Tuesday was briefed by his government’s special envoy Zed Ngavirue on the status of negotiations.
The briefing took place ahead of a final round of talks for which a date has yet to be set.
“The current offer for reparations made by the German government remains an outstanding issue and is not acceptable to the Namibian government,” Geingob said in a statement after the briefing, adding that Ngavirue had been asked to “continue with negotiations for a revised offer”.
No details were provided on the offer.
The president also noted that Germany had declined to accept the term “reparations”, as that word was also avoided during the country’s negotiations with Israel after the Holocaust.
Ngavirue rejected Germany’s reference to reparations as “healing the wounds” and said the terminology would be subject to further debate, according to the statement.
Berlin was not immediately available for comment on the claims.
Germany has acknowledged that atrocities occurred at the hands of its colonial authorities and some officials have even recognised it as a genocide.
But the country has repeatedly refused to pay direct reparations, citing millions of euros in development aid to the Namibian government.
Namibia was called German South West Africa during Germany’s 1884-1915 rule, and then passed under South African rule for 75 years, finally gaining independence in 1990.
Tensions boiled over in 1904 when the Herero rose up, followed by the Nama, in an insurrection crushed by German imperial troops.
In the Battle of Waterberg in August 1904, around 80,000 Herero fled including women and children.
German troops went after them across what is now known as the Kalahari Desert. Only 15,000 Herero survived.
The German government has so far refused to apologise for the killings.
France has opened a probe into alleged crimes against humanity by a top former Rwandan military official, Aloys Ntiwiragabo, during the country’s 1994 genocide which claimed 800,000 lives.
Anti-terrorism prosecutors told AFP Saturday that a preliminary investigation was opened after Ntiwiragabo was found hiding in the suburbs of the city of Orleans, about 100 kilometres south-west of Paris.
French investigative news site Mediapart tracked down the former Rwandan spy chief, who was identified by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) as one of the architects of the genocide.
Neither the ICTR, Interpol, France nor Rwanda were actively seeking him now and had dropped arrest warrants years ago.
The revelation of his whereabouts comes barely two months after another suspected genocide architect, Felicien Kabuga, was arrested on the fringes of Paris.
Kabuga, who evaded police in several countries for 25 years, is accused of financing the genocide.
Kabuga had asked for a trial in France, citing frail health and claiming the United Nations court in Africa would be biased against him, and possibly hand him over to Rwandan authorities.
France has long been known as a hiding place for wanted genocide suspects and French investigators currently have dozens of cases underway.
A plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, from Rwanda’s Hutu majority, was shot down in Kigali on April 6, 1994, unleashing the killing spree that would leave mainly Tutsis but also moderate Hutus dead.
The Gambia condemned Aung San Suu Kyi’s “silence” over the plight of Rohingya Muslims on Thursday after the Nobel Peace Prize laureate defended Myanmar against genocide charges at the UN’s top court.
Lawyers for the mostly Muslim African country said her arguments that Myanmar’s 2017 military crackdown was a “clearance operation” targeting militants ignored widespread allegations of mass murder, rape and forced deportation.
“Madame agent, your silence said far more than your words,” The Gambia’s lawyer Philippe Sands told the International Court of Justice (ICJ), referring to Suu Kyi, who is officially acting as Myanmar’s agent in the case.
“The word ‘rape’ did not once pass the lips of the agent,” Sands added, as Suu Kyi sat impassively in the courtroom, wearing traditional Burmese dress and flowers in her hair.
The Gambia has taken majority-Buddhist Myanmar to the court in The Hague, accusing it of breaching the 1948 UN Genocide convention and seeking emergency measures to protect the Rohingya.
Once regarded as an international rights icon for standing up to Myanmar’s brutal junta, Suu Kyi has seen her reputation tarnished by her decision to side with the military over the Rohingya crisis.
She used a dramatic appearance at the ICJ on Wednesday to say there was no “genocidal intent” behind the operation that led to some 740,000 Rohingya fleeing into neighbouring Bangladesh.
Suu Kyi defended Myanmar’s actions saying it faced an “internal conflict” and that the military conducted “clearance operations” after an attack by Rohingya militants in August 2017.
‘Imminent risk of genocide’
But Paul Reichler, another of The Gambia’s lawyers, said that those killed included “infants beaten to death or torn from their mothers’ arms and thrown into rivers to drown. How many of them were terrorists?
“Armed conflict can never be an excuse for genocide,” he said.
The lawyer said Suu Kyi had also failed to deny the conclusions of a 2018 UN investigation that found that genocide had been committed in Myanmar against the Rohingya.
“What is most striking is what Myanmar has not denied,” Reichler said.
He also dismissed Suu Kyi’s insistence that Myanmar’s military should be left to probe the allegations itself, saying it was not credible when its own top generals have themselves been accused of genocide.
“How could anyone expect the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military) to investigate when six of its top generals, including Min Aung Hlaing, have all been accused of genocide by the UN fact-finding mission?” he asked.
The US on Tuesday slapped fresh sanctions including a travel ban on military chief Min Aung Hlaing over the Rohingya crisis.
The lawyer added that Suu Kyi in her speech to the court had also followed Myanmar’s “racist” policy of refusing to refer to the Rohingya Muslim minority by their name.
Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou pushed the court to impose the emergency measures, saying there was a “serious and imminent risk of genocide recurring” and that “the lives of these human beings are at risk.”
Suu Kyi was expected to make closing remarks later Thursday.
A decision on the measures could take months, while a final ruling if the ICJ decides to take on the full case could take years.
The Gambia asked the UN’s top court Tuesday to order Myanmar to “stop this genocide” of the Rohingya Muslim minority, as a hearing attended by Myanmar’s former peace icon Aung San Suu Kyi got underway.
“All that The Gambia asks is that you tell Myanmar to stop these senseless killings, to stop these acts of barbarity that continue to shock our collective conscience, to stop this genocide of its own people,” Gambian Justice Minister Abubacarr Tambadou told judges.
Turkey on Wednesday summoned the US ambassador to Ankara over a resolution passed by the US House of Representatives officially recognising the “Armenian genocide”, officials at the Turkish foreign ministry said.
The US Ambassador to Ankara David Satterfield was summoned to the foreign ministry over “a resolution that lacks any historical or legal basis” and a bill that imposes sanctions over Turkey’s military operation in Syria, the officials said.
Turkey on Wednesday rejected the US House of Representatives’ official recognition of the “Armenian Genocide”, warning it risks harming ties “at an extremely fragile time” for international and regional security.
“As a meaningless political step, its sole addressees are the Armenian lobby and anti Turkey groups,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
“We believe that American friends of Turkey who support the continuation of the alliance and friendly relations will question this grave mistake and those who are responsible will be judged by the conscience of the American people,” it added.
Rwanda on Sunday began 100 days of mourning for more than 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 started off 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 is leading the memorial to the dead.
After lighting the flame, accompanied by his wife Jeanette, African Union chief Moussa Faki and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, Kagame is expected to make a speech.
He will speak 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.
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 the economic recovery. Growth in 2018 was a heady 7.2 per cent, 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.
French President Emmanuel Macron is not attending but expressed his “solidarity with the Rwandan people and his compassion to the victims and their families” in a statement Sunday.
The statement said Macron would like to make April 7 a “day of commemoration of the genocide” in France, without giving further details.
At the ceremony, France is 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.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday appointed a panel of experts to investigate France’s actions in Rwanda during the country’s genocide 25 years ago, a subject that has dogged Franco-Rwandan relations since the 1994 massacres.
The commission of eight researchers and historians “will be tasked with consulting all France’s archives relating to the genocide… in order to analyse the role and engagement of France during that period,” the presidency said in a statement.
It will look at the period from 1990 to 1994 to “contribute to a better understanding and knowledge of the genocide of Tutsis,” the statement said.
The findings of the researchers, none of them Rwandaexperts, will be used in material used to teach people in France about the genocide, it added.
Rwanda has accused France of being complicit in the genocide of an estimated 800,000 mostly ethnic Tutsis through its support for the Hutu-led government of the day.
It also accuses the French forces who were stationed in Rwanda under a UN mandate of having helped some of the perpetrators to escape, with some seeking sanctuary in France, which critics say for years dragged its heels on bringing them to justice.
Macron announced Friday that the judicial unit in charge of prosecuting Rwandan genocide suspects would be boosted so that suspects “could be tried in a reasonable amount of time”.
The creation of the commission and announcement of extra legal resources for genocide cases aim to help further mend the ties between Rwanda and France, which the genocide left in tatters.
Paris has consistently denied claims of complicity in the bloodletting.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who led the Tutsi rebel force that eventually overthrew the genocidal Hutu regime, broke off ties with France between 2006 and 2009 but relations have improved over the past decade.
Confronting France’s past
Macron had nonetheless caused disappointment among genocide survivors and experts by turning down an invitation to attend this weekend’s commemorations in Rwanda.
Macron’s office cited scheduling issues and announced that Herve Berville, a young MP of Rwandan origin who was orphaned during the genocide and adopted by a French family, would represent France instead.
The 41-year-old president, who came of age after France’s colonial era, has already gone further than his predecessor in lifting the lid on France’s murky past in Africa.
On Friday, he became the first French president to meet with representatives of Ibuka, the biggest association of Rwanda’s genocide survivors.
And last September he acknowledged that France had instigated a system that facilitated torture during Algeria’s 1954-1962 independence war, a conflict that also remains hugely sensitive in France.
He also announced that France would open up its archives on the thousands of civilians and soldiers who went missing during that war.
Franco-Rwandan relations hit their nadir in 2006 after a French judge recommended that Kagame be prosecuted by a UN-backed tribunal over the 1994 killing of Rwanda’s president Juvenal Habyarimana, a moderate Hutu whose death triggered the start of the genocide.
‘Errors of judgement’
The turning point came in 2010 when former president Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledged during a visit to Kigali that France had made “serious errors of judgement” in Rwanda.
While falling short of an apology it was seen as a breakthrough in Rwanda, a former Belgian colony which France jealously defended before the genocideas part of its sphere of influence in Africa.
The relationship hit turbulence again however under Socialist president Francois Hollande, before Macron’s election set the stage for a new chapter.
During a visit to Paris last year Kagame appeared impressed by his French counterpart, later praising him for taking a “fresher”, less paternalistic approach to Africa than his forerunners.
“It’s a change from the neo-colonial positions of the past,” he told Jeune Afrique magazine.