Albert Gasake

Xi Jinping at Kigali Genocide Memorial: Tribute or Hypocrisy?

China's Xi Jinping

Photo/Kigali Genocide Memerial

During his first-time visit to the Rwanda’s capital Kigali last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a controversial stop at the Genocide Memorial where he paid ‘tribute’ to the victims of Genocide against the Tutsi.

While his visit enjoyed a tremendous media coverage, the real disturbing question has gotten no attention at all — The China’s past and current role in genocides, as well as its open hostility towards human rights across the globe.

As a genocide survivor myself and rights activist who spend a good chunk of my time writing on social justice issues, I will tell you why President Xi Jinping needs to put actions where his mouth is!

Jinping was expected to leave a message at the end of his 30-minute tour as most of the high-profile guests usually do. “Take history as a mirror, cherish peace. I pay my respects to the victims of the genocide,” Jinping wrote in guestbook at Genocide Memorial.

The message looks quite genuine at first glance. However, I highly question its significance given China’s long-standing pattern of fueling genocides, including the Genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda.

If you think that China’s hands are clean as far as the 1994 Rwanda genocide against the Tutsi is concerned, you might need to revisit your position. According to a 1995 Human Rights Watch report, China blocked any chance for intervention to stop the genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda.

China argued that any intervention must be endorsed by the then extremist Hutu government—the same government that was slaughtering Tutsi at a lightning speed.

China continued to supply Rwandan genocidal government with military arms during and after its defeat, violating the United Nations embargo that Rwanda was subjected to since mid-May 1994.

At the end of March 1995, Paul Kagame, the current president of Rwanda,  paid a visit to China in part to dissuade the Chinese government from selling arms to the defeated Hutu government via Zaire.

Kagame’s visit followed a few months after a visit to China by Agathe Kanziga, the widow of the late president of Rwanda, Juvénal Habyarimana, and her brother, Séraphim Rwabukumba, in October 1994.

News reports have suggested that they placed orders for Kalashnikov rifles, grenades and rocket-propelled grenade launchers to a total value of $5 million.

China’s complicity in genocides did not end with the genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda.  In 2003, China backed the ‘genocide’ in Darfur where an estimated 400,000 people lost their lives at the hands of china’s ally general Omar al-Bashir.

Like in Rwanda, China consistently blocked efforts at the UN to have Sudan’s actions classed as genocide, to have effective sanctions put in place, or to have a peacekeeping force with the power to protect the people of Darfur put into Sudan.

Today, China is yet to take history as a mirror like Xi Jinping ironically wrote in his message at Kigali Genocide memorial.

As I write, China continues to diplomatically and politically back the Myanmar regime in their campaign to massacre the Rohingya Muslim minority.

Last year, China voted against a United Nations’ resolution calling on Myanmar to end its military operations in Rohingya’ villages and the appointment of a special envoy to Myanmar.

I’m not opposed to China’s president visiting the Genocide memorial. Quite the opposite.  In fact, I think it’s positive although too little, too late, a gesture.

As an informed genocide survivor, I simply question the political or moral significance of a Chinese leader parading on the graves of my people while facts suggest that the same leader is currently supporting the similar atrocities.

China clearly missed the opportunity to apologize for its role during the genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda. However, China has a chance now to change its long-standing policy of economic development at the cost of human rights. Whether this chance will be acted upon, that is a question. End.

By Albert Gasake.


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