Commemoration of the genocide against a backdrop of strong regional tensions

The presence of the South African president in Kigali was the center of attention.

The conflict which has shaken the east of the DRC for decades but which has increased in force in recent months could not be absent from the ceremonies commemorating the genocide of the Tutsi in Rwanda. Kigali is accused by Kinshasa of being responsible for this resumption of violence and of using and assisting the M23 militia. An armed force which has occupied the Congolese-Ugandan border post of Bunagana for almost two years and which has in recent days been approaching Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province.

Genocide in Rwanda: “Thirty years ago, living together was unimaginable”

This Monday early in the afternoon, M23 forces entered the town of Saké, which is 20 kilometers from Goma.

Faced with this M23 rebellion, Kinshasa is trying to mobilize its army, local militias, but also mercenaries, UN troops and soldiers from countries of the Southern African community, in particular South Africans.

In this context, the presence in Kigali of South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, candidate to succeed him in the legislative elections on May 29, attracted everyone's attention. Ramaphosa, after a tête-à-tête with his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame, explained, as one of his predecessors, Thabo Mbeki, had done a little earlier, that the solution to the Great Lakes crisis must be political. Ramaphosa wants to avoid the death of his soldiers before the elections at all costs. Two South African soldiers have already been killed in eastern DRC, a third is believed to have died this Monday and 57 are said to have surrendered to the men of the M23.

The future of Camp Kigali

For Belgium, this 30th commemoration is an opportunity to remember once again the death of the ten peacekeepers of the 2nd commando battalion of Flawinne, but also of 12 Belgian civilians and eight members of the Rwandan staff of the embassy of Belgium in Kigali, murdered during this genocide.

This year, the Minister of Defense, Ludivine Dedonder, and her colleague from Foreign Affairs, Hadja Lahbib, went to Kigali to pay their respects in front of the building with walls riddled with bullet holes in the company of members of the victims' families but also soldiers from the mortar platoon of the 2nd commando battalion and students from four Belgian schools.

The future of this place of memory, which is located in an area of ​​high real estate pressure in Kigali, was discussed by the two countries. A Defense press release explains: “On the basis of a 1988 Convention, the Rwandan government at the time undertook to provide land (at the time military) in order to allow the construction of housing for Belgian technical cooperators”. The document continues: “A clause in this agreement provided for the return of full ownership to the Rwandan State in the event of cessation of technical cooperation. During the hasty departure of Belgium from Rwanda in April 1994, this was de facto broken. (…) It was recently proposed to the Rwandan government that Belgium legally recognize a de facto situation in return for work to improve the accessibility and visibility of the Memorial dedicated to our 10 para-commandos, as well as the granting of an exclusive right of exploitation of the Memorial for an indefinite period.“The Kigali camp should therefore not be razed as feared by several members of the victims’ families.

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