Belgian ministers travel to Kigali to commemorate Rwandan genocide

Belgian Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib and Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder are in the Rwandan capital Kigali to take part in the commemoration of the Rwandan genocide, which began 30 years ago.

Depending on the source, between 800,000 and more than 1 million people - Tutsis and moderate Hutus - were killed in three months during the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Twenty-two Belgians also died, including 10 Belgian UN peacekeepers killed on 7 April 1994.

The violence was triggered by an attack on a plane carrying Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira. The Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), led by Paul Kagame, was eventually able to stop the genocide. Since then, Kagame has been the country's leader.

"Here in Rwanda, the worst atrocities in modern history were committed"

During their visit, Lahbib and Dedonder will visit Camp Kigali, where the Belgian peacekeepers were murdered. The ministers will also meet their Rwandan counterparts, Vincent Biruta and Juvénal Marizamunda, and attend a vigil at the Amahoro stadium on Sunday evening.

"Thirty years ago, the world witnessed horror. Here in Rwanda, the worst atrocities in modern history were committed," Lahbib said on Saturday. "Thirty years after the genocide, in a world that is unfortunately still marked by many conflicts and great uncertainties, the duty to remember is more important than ever."

Strained relations

After her visit to Rwanda, Lahbib will travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tensions between the two countries have escalated recently. Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebel group, which occupies large parts of the Congolese province of East Kivu and causes widespread violence in the region.

The conflict has strained relations between Belgium and Rwanda. Brussels has made it clear to Rwanda that it must withdraw its troops from eastern Congo immediately. Last year, Belgium refused to accredit the Rwandan ambassador, Vincent Karega, who was expelled from Congo in 2022.


Defence minister Ludivine Dedonder and Foreign minister Hadja Lahbib are welcomed at Kigali Airport. BELGA PHOTO BENOIT DOPPAGNE

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