From 20 to 25 June, leaders of more than fifty Commonwealth nations from across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, the Pacific and Europe gathered in Rwanda for Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) 2022 – with many choosing to visit and pay their respects at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
At the mass graves where 250,000 victims of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi have their final resting-place, HRH Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, placed a wreath with a signed note of remembrance: “In everlasting remembrance of those died in the Genocide against the Tutsi.”
Addressing leaders at the opening of the summit, Prince Charles spoke on his experience visiting the Kigali Genocide Memorial: “Visiting Rwanda and the Kigali Genocide Memorial for the first time, and speaking to the survivors, I have been overwhelmed by the resilience, grace, and determination of the Rwandan people.”
Throughout the week of the summit the Aegis Trust hosted many other heads of state and government at the Kigali Genocide Memorial who came to honour the victims of the Genocide, to learn more about its causes and consequences, and to discover how peace education, developed by Aegis at the Memorial, contributes towards unity and reconciliation.
Below are some of the messages from international leaders at the Kigali Genocide Memorial during CHOGM 2022.
We must never forget; we must never allow such atrocities to happen again. Nous devons apprendre, nous devons tous travailler ensemble pour s’assurer que “Plus jamais”. Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister
It has been utterly shocking to see these images, and so many physical memorials of the appalling and inexplicable Genocide against the Tutsi. I would like to thank my hosts here in Kigali for bringing it home to me with such clarity. We must do everything we can to ensure that human hearts never again are allowed to breed such hatred. Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister
A sobering reflection of man’s inhumanity to man. We must strive to ensure that such atrocity never once again here or elsewhere. May God continue to bless Rwanda. Philip Davis, Prime Minister of the Bahamas
I was moved by the history on display. It is very important that traumatic events of the past be documented and memorialised in this form for coming generations to understand and never repeat the mistake of the past. Today Rwanda is a driving example of peace and harmony. Andrew Holness, Prime Minister of Jamaica.
I am humbled as I visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial and reflect on the lives senselessly lost. I continue to be inspired by the spirit and grace of the Rwandan people as they make great strides in leaving behind the darker legacies of their past. As they move towards a future of forgiveness, reconciliation, and peace. Abdulla Shahid, President of the 76th Session of the UN General Assembly
Thank you for the immense and solemn privilege to visit the memorial. I am, and I am sure all Australians are, inspired by the reconciliation shown by the people of Rwanda. The world must never allow genocide to happen again. Hon. Pat Conroy, Australian Minister for International Development and the Pacific
Remembering the Victims of this dark history of the Rwandan Genocide, we pray that humanity will never experience this kind of hatred, wickedness and violence towards others because of their ethnic background, religion and beliefs. Nigeria is strongly committed to the prevention of mass atrocity anywhere in the world and believes that perpetrators of such crimes and their enablers anywhere in the world must be held accountable. Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria
The Rwandan people have shown great fortitude. May they continue to enjoy peace for many years. Lee Hsien Long, Prime Minister of Singapore
Visiting the Genocide Memorial in Kigali has been a sobering experience. As a global community we should renew our determination to never let something like this happen ever again. Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, President of the Republic of Maldives
Words cannot express the sorrow that I feel, but more important is the hope that I have for Rwandans. Every night I shall say a small prayer for the dead but more important for the living. May the souls of all those who are honoured by this place rest in peace. Johnny Briceno, Prime Minister, Belize
We should learn from the sufferings and agony of those thousands of people who lost their lives. We should, as leaders, take a pledge and call on international organisations that such a tragedy does not recur in the history of humanity. Visiting this place is a must for anybody. Pravind K. Jugnauth, Prime Minister, Republic of Mauritius
Division and hatred can lead to circumstances never forseen. The events of 1994 must never be allowed to happen again. Human life is sacred and we must all fight against racism, discrimination and segregation. We are all God’s children and have a right to be here. May God bless the leaders and people of Rwanda. Peace, Prosperity. Philip J. Pierre, Prime Minister, Saint Lucia
It is so very touching the way Rwandans have reconciled. I see Rwandans, every one of them, learn from their past and resolute in their decision to never let genocide happen in their country or elsewhere. The pictures, the remains, the children, the mothers, it’s so very real, so painful and to think it happened in 1994. Good luck and may God bless Rwanda. Taking back many a lesson of what could happen if hate speech is allowed to continue anywhere. Mariya Didi, Minister of Defense, Maldives
On behalf of the people of Trinidad and Tobago, I express thanks for this moving visit to this powerful memorial. I pledge to do my part to unite the people of my country and the world, to learn from Rwanda’s experience and sacrifices, and to do better as a human race. May the victims rest in peace, and blessings to all the survivors. With love, Dr Amery Browne, Minister of Foreign & CARICOM affairs, Trinidad & Tobago
What a painful experience to visit the memorial and to see the brutality of mankind but also the good that is in every one of us. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and the survivors. I wish the Rwandan people all the very best in uniting their country. May the souls of all the departed rest in Peace. Sylvestre Radegonde, Minister of Foreign affairs & Tourism of Seychelles.
Spouses and partners of national leaders and government ministers also visited the Kigali Genocide Memorial during CHOGM 2022. Here are some of their reflections:
The genocide against the Tutsis inflicted unimaginable human pain. I find it most upsetting to think of all the young children that were so brutally murdered or who grew up with no parents. We must never forget. Carrie Johnson, wife of the British Prime Minister
It’s so easy to divide us as human beings when in fact no matter our economic circumstances, colour, race, we are all equal. Let us honour the memory of those who died by spreading “One Love, unity” across the world. Juliet Holness, wife of the Prime Minister of Jamaica
Dieudonne gave the most insightful tour with thorough details. Although painful and hurting seeing all this – it is a great lesson to humanity. Wishing the people of Rwanda God’s love and prosperity! Thank you for the tour. Neo J Nasis, First Lady of Botswana
What a heartbreaking journey. I truly commend the ambitious undertaking for all the reconciliation efforts. I truly applaud the resilience shown. Maesaiah Thabene, First lady of Lesotho
So heartbreaking, but with God peace and love I leave with you all. See you all with love and hope and peace in after life. We are here with you all. Fiona Sovaleni, wife of the Prime Minister of Tonga
People just kept telling me “sorry” when I just felt so very sad for such a heinous crime committed to families and children. I pray this never happens again. Rossana Briceno, wife of the Prime Minister of Belize
Words cannot express the grief and pain I felt during the visit to the genocide memorial. I also feel the encouragement and healing that has started to happen, and I commend the people for their forgiveness of such horrible crimes. May peace reign forever in this country. Linda Ramkalawan, First Lady of Seychelles
I am so very shocked and depressed to see what happened in Rwanda in the year 1994. The Genocide which took place of thousands of innocent Tutsis and others who defended them. May this kind of tragedy never be repeated anywhere in the world again. May all who died Rest in Peace. Savithri Peiris, wife of the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister
My dear people and children of Rwanda, this visit has reduced me to tears. But through all the pain, I could see hope. I applaud the children, women and men of Rwanda for choosing peace over everything else. God bless. Fazna Ahmet, First Lady of the Maldives
This tour caused me a great deal of sadness, particularly the images of infants who were burnt alive and in the arms of their parents. Having visited this beautiful country, it is hard to believe that such an atrocity occurred here. The people of Rwanda have demonstrated strong resilience and the future appears to be bright for its people. God bless you. Maire Felix, First Lady of Saint Lucia