In 1994, the world was shaken to its core upon receiving news of a series of genocides conducted against the Tutsi people by the Hutu majority within the central African state of Rwanda. Between the 7th of April and the 15th of July, between 500,000 to 1 million people would lose their lives in the bitter ethnic struggles that tore the country in two, eliciting reactions of horror and dismay from the international community. Twenty-two years on, and Rwanda is still deeply scarred by the events that transpired there during those dark months.
So it was that Her Royal Highness the Princess Sarah Zeid of Jordan arrived in Rwanda this Monday to pay her respects to the 1994 Massacre victims, and to the efforts conducted by Rwanda towards reconciliation in the decade since.
Accompanied by the Rwandan Minister of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, Seraphine Mukantabana, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Volten Türk, HRH gave a moment’s respectful silence before laying down a wreath at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, as part of a humanitarian tour through the region to bring closer focus to the plight of refugees within the area. In addition to her visit to the Genocide Memorial, Princess Sarah of Jordan will also visit a Burundi refugee camp in Mahama, Kirehe District, where she is expected to address the refugees there who fled to Rwanda after political turmoil in their own country. She will then take part in a discussion between the Rwandan Government and the UNHCR regarding the fate of the Burundi refugees within the country.
Also to be discussed is the cessation clause, which sets December 2017 as the deadline for the refugee status of Rwandans still claiming asylum elsewhere within neighbouring African countries to be revoked. From that point on, refugees may choose to either repatriate back to Rwanda or seek citizenship in their host country. Refugees refusing either choice would not longer be catered to by the UNHCR.
As she gave her tribute to the victims of the Rwanda Genocide, Princess Sarah left a message in the memorial’s guestbook, where she is reported to have written:
“Such courage to be reborn and move forward, but never forgotten.”