On the 28thof June 2019, a new Rwandan website was launched. “Rwandanlivesmatter, cry for justice” is an initiative led by the new generation of Rwandans, the generation that was under 15 years old in 1994, tired and saddened by seeing Rwandans’ lives being wiped out in the open and the general response being indifference. For example, at the end of May 2019, Rwandan police shot two Rwandans in Uganda. The response by the media and diplomats was focused on whether or not the Ugandan territory had been violated by Rwanda rather than the fact that another human life had just been taken. Many young Rwandans deplored the fact that the murder of two Rwandans had been overshadowed or unnoticed, signaling that murders of Rwandans by authorities has been normalized over the years. Jambonews met with the initiators of this project to learn more about it.
Jambonews: Please introduce yourselves?
Rwandanlivesmatter: We are young Rwandans. In the context of Rwanda, young people refers to a generation that was under 15 years old in 1994. Many of us are members of associations that campaign for the respect of human rights in Rwanda such as Jambo ASBL, CLIIR and Global Campaign for Rwandans Rights.
Jambonews: Since when does the website exist?
The website http://www.rwandanlivesmatter.site was launched on the 28thof June 2019, but its content already existed for several years.
Jambonews: Why make it public at this time?
Today, we consider the website ready publish. We have spent many years of preparing and updating of content and the website was ready for release. Then suddenly, Paul Kagame gave an interview to France 24which shocked many Rwandans. It was astounding to see the President of Rwanda state that no one had the right to ask him questions about these people who disappear, are shot, or are arbitrarily detained in Rwanda. If Paul Kagame, by asking “Who are you…”, thinks that foreigners have no right to ask him questions about human rights in Rwanda, then we, the new generation of Rwandans, take the lead to ask and remind him that all these lives have a value and that they aspire to justice.
Jambonews: Where did this website idea come from?
In 2014, we noted that when the Rwandan government assassinates, forces a person or group of people into exile or disappears them, these acts are reported in the media for a few days or a few weeks at most and then people stop talking about them. The victim(s) and/or injustice committed are no longer mentioned. They fall into oblivion and this only strengthens whoever is behind these human rights violations. Therefore, we decided to create a directory or compilation of all the victims of human rights violations by the committed by the RPF lead’s government.
Thus, a list of victims by type (assassinations, attempted assassinations, political prisoners and massacres), and by category of victims (businessmen, doctors, soldiers, human rights defenders, politicians, etc.) began to emerge.
A first publication was made in 2015 in collaboration with Jambo ASBL and Global Campain for Rwandans Rights titled Kagame’s Death Squads Murder Trail. This first publication consisted of a graphical compilation of the names, dates and circumstances of assassinations.
Jambonews: What is the purpose of the site?
The website http://www.rwandanlivesmatter.site has two purposes.
First, this site sends a message to the Rwandan authorities and documents their horrible human rights record. Justice must be served for these victims who are listed. They must not be forgotten.
Secondly, this site serves to show the world that in Rwanda, after the genocide, the government has claimed countless victims since it came to power after the war and genocide against the Tutsis in 1994. It therefore serves as an aide-memoire for those who defend human rights for Rwandans or who are interested in human rights or just want to be generally informed.
Jambonews: Most victims seem to be known cases, often covered by the media, are there any criteria for a victim to be listed on the site?
Yes, these are known cases that have been covered by the media, but as mentioned above, the media coverage lasted only a maximum of 3 weeks and justice has not been served. The pain of the victims’ relatives and family members remains. They and all Rwandans demand convincing answers from the Rwandan state.
Therefore, the information contained on the site is taken from the public domain, the media, Human Right Watch reports, Amnesty International reports, some others information come from the families or organizations of the victims or other human rights organizations active on Rwanda. Now that the site is online, we are counting on more Rwandan citizens to send us the information. We hope they will participate fully and in masses for the sake of their loved ones and fellow country people. For the criteria, we ask ourselves a few simple questions to start with. Let us take the example of an assassination given that Rwanda has abolished the death penalty since 2007. We ask ourselves questions such as: should this victim have been murdered? The answer is no, because there is no justification for murder. Was his murder an accident? Don’t the circumstances of this loss of life leave room for doubt? In addition to that, we take the time to compare the versions of what has been made public (in the media or by the victims’ relatives) and sometimes we notice huge gaps.
Another criterion is that the acts occurred during post genocide Rwanda.
We consider it useful to remind that post genocide authorities have the responsibility to protect the citizens. Instead of protecting its population, these authorities have committed and continue to commit atrocities against the population.
Jambonews: Why the #Rwandanlivesmatter?
It is a # inspired by the movement in the United States Black lives Matter. We thought about a domain name, and when this # came to mind, we didn’t hesitate because the message it conveys is exactly the one we want to convey through this website.
As we already mentioned above, Rwandans are regularly shot dead by the police, by the army, or disappear. Most of the time, this is done with public indifference. When the media reports it, it lasts a few days to three weeks at most and life goes on as if these people never existed, as if their lives didn’t matter.
The # is first of all a tribute to the victims, not to allow them to be forgotten. It is also a message to the families of the victims to let them know that they will no longer be alone in their grief. This is because the families’ pain does not go away after three weeks especially when they never received answers about what happened to their loved one.
Finally, it is a message to the Rwandan government, to make it known that there will no longer be general indifference or normalization of violence against Rwandan people. For each victim, we will ask the government to respond and be held accountable. The government’s role is to protect its population and it is not acceptable that in Rwanda the government is the first cause of insecurity toward citizens.
Jambonews: How can this initiative be supported?
- By disseminating, popularizing and using the information contained on this website to advocate for the respect of human rights in Rwanda. The Rwandan government must stop spilling Rwandan blood and cease making victims of Rwandans. For instance by following us on social media Facebookand Twitterand sharing widely
- We invite Rwandans and friends of Rwanda to contribute to the information to be published on this website. If someone is missing on the website or if there is incomplete information about a victim on the website (a date, circumstances etc… missing), we invite them to provide us with this information.
- We invite Rwandans and friends of Rwanda to use this website to monitor the Rwandan authorities’ violations of human rights and advocate for justice for each victim.
Jambonews: Do you want to add anything?
We would like to thank all the people who have been involved in this project. Since the site has been released to the public, we have received many messages of encouragement from Rwandans and advice for a better layout of our website, so we say thank you all. This website will continue to evolve and grow.
This is not a matter of a few weeks or months and what we want to let Rwandans know that this site does not belong to a few people or organizations, but to all those who care about the need to respect every human life in Rwanda.