Statement of the President of the Republic
of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki at the Commemoration of
the 10th Anniversary of the Commencement of the 1994
Genocide in Rwanda, Kigali 7 April 2004
President Paul Kagame
People of Rwanda.
I am honoured to express my sincere thanks and appreciation
to His Excellency, President Kagame, for the invitation
extended to us to be here today to participate in this
important commemoration of the Rwanda Genocide of 1994.
We are privileged to convey to you, Mr President, the
government and people of Rwanda a heartfelt message
of friendship and solidarity from the government and
people of South Africa and an unwavering commitment
to work with you as our peoples strive to achieve the
shared goal of a better life for all.
As you know, Mr President, 20 days from today, we will
be celebrating our 10th Anniversary of Freedom, our
liberation from the clutches of the apartheid crime
History decreed Mr President that during the very same
month that your country and people saw the beginning
of the unimaginable nightmare of Genocide, your brothers
and sisters in South Africa ended the apartheid system
of white minority domination by participating in our
very first democratic elections.
Because we were preoccupied with extricating ourselves
from our own nightmare, we did not cry out as loudly
as we should have against the enormous and heinous crime
against the people of Rwanda that was committed in 1994.
For that we owe the people of Rwanda a sincere apology,
which I now extend in all sincerity and humility.
We do this because we know that the apartheid regime
that our people defeated in 1994, too late to make a
difference to what happened in this country, supplied
some of the weapons that were used by those who massacred
a million of their compatriots and fellow Africans in
We remember too, Mr President, that when we acted on
the request of your Movement to ask the apartheid regime
to stop the supply of the weapons of death, representatives
of the oppressor regime in our country boldly asserted
the precedence of profit from the sale of the instruments
of death over the lives of the people of Rwanda.
To that extent, we too as South Africans contributed
to the diabolical slaughter of the innocents. We hope
that by the admission of these truths we can contribute
even an infinitesimal fraction of the balm that helps
to moderate the sharp pain of the remembering of a crime
that is too fresh to have receded into the mists of
Mr President, a time such as this demands that the
truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth should
be told. It should be told because not to tell it is
to create the conditions for the crime to recur.
Not to tell the truth is to impose an additional burden
on those who already carry too heavy a burden of an
intensely felt pain, of denying them the possibility
to forgive those who had done wrong, of condemning them
to nurse a consuming anger and grievance against those
guilty of acts of commission and omission.
Mr President, at a time such as this, it is inevitable
that many questions will and must be asked and answers
Why did it happen?
What evil force captured the souls of the genocidaires,
giving them the courage to murder a million people in
What was it that gave the leaders and commanders of
the genocidaires the murderous courage to direct and
preside over so gruesome a crime?
What did we as Africans do to stop the slaughter? If
we did nothing, why did we do nothing?
Why did the United Nations, set up to ensure that genocide,
as occurred when the Holocaust was visited on the Jewish
people, did not recur anywhere in the world, stand by
as Africans were exterminated like pernicious vermin?
Why were General Romeo Dallaire and his undermanned
contingent of UN peacekeepers abandoned by the same
people who sent them to Rwanda?
Why did those who dispose of enormous global power
that has been used to determine the fate of all humanity,
decide that the slaughter in Yugoslavia had to be stopped
at all costs, while the bigger slaughter in Rwanda should
be allowed to run its full course?
Have all the guilty been identified, whatever their
contribution to the commission of the genocide?
Have the necessary lessons been learnt? What are those
lessons? Who has learnt them? What have these done with
the knowledge they have acquired?
Was it enough merely to say "sorry" on the
part of those who had the humility, courage and honesty
to say "sorry"? And what of those who are
perhaps too arrogant to utter this simple word?
Everyday, the severed heads and skeletons stored at
the sites of the massacres point an accusing finger
at all of us who did not do what we should have done
to stop the murderous rampage. Everyday they remind
us that we cannot merely say the Rwanda Genocide occurred
and treat it just as an historical episode that has
Mr President, we have returned to Kigali today to convey
our humble thanks and sincere gratitude to the people
of Rwanda and their leaders for restoring our dignity
as Africans, through the extraordinary things you have
done, to teach the world and us the meaning of forgiveness
and national reconciliation.
We have returned to Kigali to learn the lessons we
can and must learn from the extraordinary people of
this land, whose beauty disguises the fact only 10 years
ago it was disfigured by the torrents of blood that
flowed here as though that blood was no different from
the water brought by the tropical rainstorms.
We have come to this land that knows the true meaning
of tragedy fully to absorb the lesson that to be truly
human is to overcome the easy temptation to hate, to
despair, to seek revenge and retribution, to worship
at the altar of violence, deifying the use of terrifying
force in the ordering of human relations.
A Rwandan girl child survived the genocide because
the corpses that fell on her at the church where people
were killed, sheltered her from the eyes of the murderers.
When she was found, she said, "We will never come
back to this church. It is a graveyard. The angels have
There are others in the world that would have said
the same thing when they saw Rwanda 10 years ago, with
corpses covering the landscape and the stench of decomposing
human flesh making it difficult to breathe. They too
would have said, "We will never come back to this
country. It is a graveyard. The angels have left us."
But we have come because of what you, the people of
Rwanda have done, which has said this a country of hope
and a new life of peace, on which the angels shower
We salute you, our Rwandan brothers and sisters, and
pledge our friendship with you, a friendship that obliges
us willingly and voluntarily to stand side by side with
you as you work to rebuild your country and your lives.
For more information please call Dumisani Nkwamba on
082 451 5583 or Bheki Khumalo on 083 256 9133
Issued by: The Presidency
7 April 2004