Meeting date: Thursday, May 2, 2019
Meeting of the Parliament 02 May 2019
Agenda: General Question Time, First Minister’s Question Time, Rwandan Genocide (25th Anniversary), Portfolio Question Time, Business Motion, Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3, Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill, Business Motion, Motion without Notice, Decision Time
- General Question Time
- First Minister’s Question Time
- Rwandan Genocide (25th Anniversary)
- Portfolio Question Time
- Business Motion
- Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 3
- Health and Care (Staffing) (Scotland) Bill
- Business Motion
- Motion without Notice
- Decision Time
Rwandan Genocide (25th Anniversary)
The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S5M-16380, in the name of Iain Gray, on the 25th anniversary commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.
That the Parliament notes the 25th anniversary commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, in which the lives of approximately one million people were lost in 100 days; notes the links that have developed between Rwanda and East Lothian, as well as other parts of Scotland, since then; remembers with the Rwandan people as they reflect on those dark days; commends Rwanda on its remarkable progress to reconciliation within the nation; notes its considerable development in social and economic terms since 1994; acknowledges the privilege of walking with Rwanda along its path of recovery as one of Scotland's key partners in international development, and trusts that the nation will continue to flourish in peace and hope in the decades ahead.12:49
As we meet, Rwanda is observing 100 days of national mourning, which began on 7 April. That was the 25th anniversary of the day in 1994 when the genocide against the Tutsis began in Rwanda. In the following 100 days, around 1 million people were slaughtered, which is around 70 per cent of the Tutsi population. Appalling atrocities were committed by the armed forces and the Hutu Interahamwe militias, and by civilians against civilians, colleagues against colleagues and neighbours against neighbours. Most of that barely believable intensity of murder was perpetrated with nothing more than machetes.
The world knew that that was happening. At the time, I worked for Oxfam. I remember being told of the now famous letter that was sent to the president of the Adventist church by a group of its pastors who had taken refuge with thousands of their congregation members in their church. It began:
“We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families.”
They pleaded for his help, but the church president, Pastor Ntakirutimana, was a Hutu, and the next day the pastors were killed with their families. Pastor Ntakirutimana was later convicted of helping to organise the massacre.
With Oxfam, I campaigned and lobbied to get the international community to intervene, but it refused. The United Nations had a peacekeeping force in place in Rwanda. Its commander, General Dallaire, had told his superiors in the infamous genocide fax that genocide against the Tutsis was being planned. He was told to protect only foreign nationals and not to intervene in the murder of the Tutsi people. The UN force was then largely withdrawn. It is said that they burned their blue berets in shame as they left.
When the killing ended, fearing retribution, the Hutu population fled the country—at one point, 1 million people a day were crossing the border. In late August of that year, I spent some time with Oxfam’s emergency team in eastern Zaire and then a few days in Rwanda. In truth, I cannot find the words to explain what it is like to see a country empty of its people—one part dead and the rest having fled. However, I can say this: what remained was something of the evil done there only days before—a darkness that gripped you at every turn.
Rwanda emerged from the genocide devastated. Life expectancy had fallen to 29 years; there were 95,000 orphans. However, in the ensuing years, great progress has been made, and although 38 per cent of that country’s people still live in poverty, life expectancy is now 67 and, with economic growth averaging 7.5 per cent, it is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa.
Scottish charities such as Comfort International and Tearfund Scotland have played a part in that, and my East Lothian constituency has a special place in its heart for Rwanda, too. During the 2014 Commonwealth games, the Rwandan team was hosted by East Lothian, and those links have continued through sport and local schools—for example, Tranent Colts Football Club has sent delegations to do coaching and community-building work in Rwanda.
We can hardly imagine how difficult it is to heal the wounds of such events. It is true that some of the leaders of the genocide have been tried, convicted and imprisoned, but the guilt was widespread, and the Tutsi people of Rwanda still have to undertake acts of forgiveness and reconciliation that we can hardly understand every day of their lives.
All that we can do is try to learn the lessons. What are they? The first is that not all military interventions are bad. To this day, I burn with shame that my country failed to act to save those lives, because I know that it could have done so and I know that I failed to win the argument that it should.
Secondly, we must always remember genocide and the Holocaust, but we should be careful when we say, “Never again.” We let this happen in Rwanda and we let it happen, a year later, in Srebrenica in Bosnia. Instead of patting ourselves on the back for our empathy for the genocides of the past, we should ask ourselves, “On which genocides today are we turning our backs?”
The final lesson is that genocide ends with machetes and murder but that is not how it begins; it begins with the words of hate. The othering of the Tutsi people by Hutu extremists had gone on for a long time before 1994. A radio station, Radio Mille Collines, was specifically created to foster hatred of the Tutsi people, who it referred to as cockroaches, and was used ultimately to unleash and encourage the slaughter. This is the lesson that we must learn: we cannot, must not and will not tolerate the language of hatred, othering and dehumanisation anywhere, ever. Perhaps then we will earn the right to say, “Never again.”
Our message to the people of Rwanda should be this: we let you down in 1994, but you have our solidarity, our prayers and our love now in your 100 days of mourning, and we will try to do better in future.12:57
Twenty-five years on from the slaughter that ripped Rwanda apart, it is right that we commemorate that genocide and reflect on its legacy for the Rwandan people and the international peacekeeping community, so I congratulate lain Gray on securing the debate and providing us all with the opportunity to do so.
On 7 April 1994, the majority Hutu of Rwanda turned on the Tutsi minority in a wave of calculated violence. The spark that lit the fuse of the already tense relationship between Hutus and Tutsis was the death of Rwandan president Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his plane was shot down above Kigali airport the previous day. One hundred days later, when the killing finally stopped, the death toll stood at up to 1 million; it was comprised of Tutsis as well as moderate Hutus who had bravely opposed the bloodshed. Although we still do not know who was definitively responsible for the attack, it is undeniable that, within hours, a campaign of violence spread from the capital across Rwanda. Elite Government forces, supported by the Interahamwe—a Hutu militia—rounded up and executed Tutsi military and political leaders.
Road blocks were hastily erected to catch Rwandans with personal documentation identifying them as Tutsis—a distinction that was introduced in the 1930s by the Belgian colonial authorities to divide and rule. In rural areas, where Hutus and Tutsis had sometimes married and had children, Government propaganda in radio broadcasts and newspaper articles urged Hutus to pick up any weapon that they could find, such as machetes and clubs, to kill or maim their neighbours. Hutus were given incentives, such as money or food, or told that they could claim the land of the Tutsis they murdered. Some even stooped to destroying churches where Tutsis had taken refuge.
Sexual violence was also endemic, with the rape of up to 500,000 women, which accelerated the spread of AIDS and led to the stigmatisation of the offspring of those assaults as children of the killers. The scale of the slaughter was shocking. It was Africa’s largest genocide in modern times.
The horror did not end even after the Rwandan Patriotic Front captured Kigali, as the torrent of killings washed into the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo, where Hutu militias continued to operate, igniting years of strife in Africa’s great lakes region.
Shamefully, the Rwandan genocide was largely ignored by the international community, despite the United Nations having 2,500 troops in Rwanda. Years later, Kofi Annan, the head of UN peacekeeping operations, who later became UN secretary general, said:
“All of us must bitterly regret that we did not do more to prevent it.”
It is heartbreaking that the world’s largest peacekeeping force failed to intervene, just as it failed to do a year later in Srebrenica. Last month, President Emmanuel Macron of France ordered a two-year inquiry into his country’s role in the Rwandan genocide, given France’s significant role in French-speaking Africa. Perhaps that signifies that the international community is ready to take responsibility for failing to protect Rwandans. That is vital in order to ensure that lessons are learned to prevent future atrocities. Hearteningly, over the past 25 years, Rwanda has rebuilt its institutions and its economy. To bring perpetrators of the genocide to justice, the UN conducted more than 70 tribunals and Rwanda’s courts tried up to 20,000 individuals. Tutsis and Hutus, survivors and killers, now struggle to live side by side.
I am pleased that lain Gray’s motion refers to Scotland’s close relationship with Rwanda and our two countries’ efforts to move forward together. Despite Rwanda’s recovery, deprivation remains high and persistent, with 38 per cent of people living in poverty and 16 per cent in extreme poverty. Rwanda is now in the Commonwealth and is one of Scotland’s African partner countries, and the Scottish Government is funding a sustainable economic and agriculture development programme to improve the lives of 30,000 people in 207 villages across Rwanda. The programme aims to create alternative income generation and give access to savings and loans through self-help groups.
Agriculture is Rwanda’s economic mainstay, with 70 per cent of the population engaged in the sector, although farming methods are badly out of date. Farmers are also vulnerable to land degradation, soil erosion and climate shocks. The Scottish Government supports the use of environmentally friendly agricultural techniques to improve crop productivity and food security in Rwanda, and provides training on how to build energy-saving stoves and sources of renewable energy. That is particularly important in Rwanda, which is one of Africa’s most densely populated countries and where land availability is scarce.
While we reflect on the legacy of the brutal massacre of 25 years ago, Rwanda now looks forward. Whether through examining ways of preventing similar atrocities or working with international partners to support sustainable development and lift people out of poverty, there is a role for Scotland in Rwanda’s future.13:02
I congratulate Iain Gray on not only his motion but his opening speech, which set the tone for the debate and offered a historical perspective on what happened in Rwanda.
As I said in the chamber last September, through Tearfund I had the privilege of visiting Rwanda and seeing some of the projects that are under way at the moment. Iain Gray was correct in what he said about our response to the genocide. Twenty-five years ago, I was a young solicitor here in Edinburgh. Some of us were at school, university or work while the genocide was on our televisions and we simply ignored it. A million people were killed within 100 days and we in the west, including the United Nations, stood back and let it happen. As Iain Gray pointed out, one of the things that we can reflect on as a Parliament and as politicians is what we will do if such events ever happen again. It is not enough for us simply to have debates and offer warm words; we need to intervene appropriately.
I will concentrate my remarks on what has happened in Rwanda since the genocide. One of the things that struck me on my visit to Rwanda nearly 25 years on from the genocide was the reconciliation that has taken place in that country. I was bowled over by the way in which people have been able to live again in neighbourhoods and villages. From the President and politicians to the media, the church and individuals, there has been an immense reconciliation.
I will never forget the Monday I talked to a man in a village under a beating sun. It emerged that he had murdered 30 or 40 people during the genocide. After spending time in prison, he had become a Christian and had come to reconcile himself with what he had done. The only place where he could go was back to his village, but he knew that most of the village would turn on him. However, in that village, he pointed to a lady and said, “I killed that lady’s husband and children, but when I came back to the village she was the first one to come over and welcome me.” Such reconciliation is beyond my understanding, and it puts into perspective a lot of what we talk about in the Parliament.
I, too, welcome the intervention of the Scottish Government through its working in partnership with organisations such as Tearfund. As we have heard, the statistics show that there is a long way to go, but good progress has been made. The Scottish Government has funded projects for things that we take for granted, such as water. The self-help groups that allow individuals in small communities to pool resources and money to bring the community back together are amazing. I remember visiting a project where a number of women have pooled resources to buy sewing machines to make items that they now sell to people in the local village and community and beyond.
Iain Gray is absolutely right; the message of the debate must be to say—as a country, as part of the European community and as part of the west—sorry to the people of Rwanda for turning our backs when they needed us most. We need to learn from that and move on, and I welcome the debate.13:06
I thank lain Gray for securing the debate and providing us with an opportunity to commemorate all those who suffered and died during the atrocities that took place in Rwanda 25 years ago. I also welcome the insight that Iain provided from his time in Rwanda and Zaire with Oxfam, when he saw first hand the aftermath of the horrific events.
To mark the loss of approximately 1 million lives in 100 days 25 years ago, Rwanda is currently observing 100 days of mourning. Here, in the Scottish Parliament, we should also reflect on the terrible events of 1994 and remember the lives that were lost and the damage that was done. Around 70 per cent of the Tutsi population was slaughtered in those 100 days, and appalling atrocities were committed by militia, armed forces and—as we have heard—civilians.
An Amnesty International briefing highlights concerns relating to the current situation in Rwanda and the sad reality of a country that still faces political and human rights challenges, as is very much evident from the reports that Amnesty International has provided on the severe restrictions on freedom of expression and the reported persecution of political opponents.
We should also recognise the progress that has been made from what was a very divisive and bloody situation to where Rwanda is today. Following the genocide, Rwanda was socially and economically devastated, with gross domestic product growth of -50 per cent, life expectancy of only 29 years and 95,000 orphaned children. There is no denying that challenges remain, particularly in the high levels of poverty, food insecurity and malnutrition. However, 25 years on, significant progress has been made, with economic growth of 7.5 per cent in the 10 years to 2017 and life expectancy now at 67 years. It is a country in which 43 per cent of the population is under the age of 15, which can present many challenges, but can also provide huge potential.
I hope that Scotland continues to be a key partner to Rwanda and to provide support during its on-going process of recovery. I welcome the work of organisations such as Tearfund in delivering Scottish-funded programmes that have worked to heal communities, provide access to loans and develop new skills, in order to reduce poverty.
I will speak a little about Chantal Mrimi. Born in Zaire—as it was then called—to Tutsi parents who fled there from Rwanda as refugees, Chantal spent her childhood in segregation and extreme poverty. She was 18 years old when the 1994 genocide took place and her family spent months in hiding, particularly when the killing spilled over into Zaire’s refugee camps.
When Chantal and her family returned to Rwanda, the aftermath of the genocide was all around, and death was an everyday occurrence. The psychological impact of the genocide affected the entire population. In time, Chantal was able to secure a job working with the UN and, later, an opportunity to come to Fife on a temporary visa led to her emigrating to Scotland in 1999. Moving to Scotland allowed Chantal to address the trauma that she had experienced and to write a book about her story, the proceeds of which go to her education foundation in Rwanda. She is now employed by Fife Council and is an active community member, whom I have had the privilege of hearing speak.
Chantal also set up a project that lets Scots visit Rwanda, build links with its people and hear their stories. The project works to raise awareness of Rwanda’s history and to promote positive relationships between Scots and refugees. In recognition of her significant achievements, Chantal won woman of the year at the 2018 Scottish women’s awards.
Chantal’s story is an example of the individual links between Scotland and Rwanda, but it also serves as a powerful reminder of the capacity for individuals, communities and societies to recover and build bright futures. It reminds us that positivity and connectivity can come from even the worst atrocities.
It has been a powerful debate and I thank Iain Gray for securing it.13:10
I, too, thank Iain Gray for bringing this important and difficult subject to the Parliament. I commend him for a powerful speech and thank him for sharing his insight and experience with us—as did Mr Balfour.
The Jewish lawyer and Polish refugee Raphael Lemkin coined the word “genocide” in 1943. It is a combination of Greek and Latin. The fact that it is a Jewish-Polish fusion of Greek and Latin shows how interrelated we humans are as a species. Mr Lemkin’s interest was prompted by his growing awareness of the Armenian genocide. He said:
“my worries about the murder of the innocent became more meaningful to me. I didn’t know all the answers but I felt that a law against this type of racial or religious murder must be adopted by the world.”
The international community formally adopted a definition of genocide in the 1948 convention, enshrining the message, “Never again,” in international law. We have heard that message in today’s debate and no doubt will hear it again.
Indeed, 1994 should have been a great year for the African continent, for those who value democracy, humanity, the right to self-determination and a new future. In May 1994, after three centuries of white rule, Nelson Mandela became South Africa’s first black president. At his inauguration, he said:
“Never, never again shall it be that this beautiful land will experience the oppression of one by another”.
Sadly, around that time, Rwanda saw the worst of humanity at play; I fear that the name of the country will forever be associated with the terrible genocide of 1994.
One of the many powerful things that Mr Gray said was that such genocide begins with the words of hate. My notes say “Hutu people” and “Tutsi people”, but in fact, they are just people—that is what we should call them. Of course, we should celebrate differences, but we are all one and the same. There were 1 million deaths during 100 days of bloodshed in April and July 1994 and, as Mr Balfour said, we knew about it.
We know that wholesale slaughter was not new to the world: there is a history of pogroms visited on Jewish communities; the Holocaust; the Holodomor in the Ukraine—killing by starvation, like the Irish famine; Armenia; Cambodia; Bosnia; and the treatment of indigenous peoples by colonialists, including Scots. In many respects, mankind has a shameful history.
I was drawn to an article in The Independent, written by Rachael Burns in December 2018, entitled, “Why the UN convention on genocide is still failing, 70 years on”. It picks up on some of the comments that have already been made. She says:
“First, the very application of the term ‘genocide’ is applied too slowly and cautiously when atrocities happen.”
That is because it is a question of who rather than what. There is no excuse for that, given how small the world is. She goes on:
“Second, the international community fails to act effectively against genocides. Third, too few perpetrators are actually convicted”.
When there are convictions, it is heartening to see.
The role of the international community is very important. When I speak in Parliament on matters connected to Palestine and elsewhere, I return to the topic of the UN’s role and the lack of respect for the UN. It is not a group of equals—the big boys have a veto. Might is not right in that context and the developed world must have respect for international law.
The 100 days of national mourning in Rwanda have begun and the legacy of the psychological impact on the communities must be dealt with. I believe that the human spirit is strong; we must be positive; and we must believe that things can get better. What role is there for each of us, as parliamentarians, to play as global citizens who shape the future of humanity? For instance, 1994 was also the year that the United States opened Guantanamo Bay detention camp and that the Provisional Irish Republican Army declared a ceasefire, which were significant events.
The future of our fragile planet and the lovely country and people of Rwanda—our sisters and brothers—must be at the forefront of our thoughts. We will not forget and we must learn and look to the future.13:15
I, too, thank Iain Gray for securing today’s very important debate. I also thank him for his clearly personal and passionate speech, which laid out the reality of the impact of the events of those 100 days. In 2003, the United Nations General Assembly officially proclaimed 7 April the international day of reflection on the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda. I am grateful for the opportunity to speak about those atrocities 25 years on.
We must never forget just how awful the events of those days were or their impact on the people of Rwanda. However, we should also remember the knock-on effect that the horrors of what happened in Rwanda had on other areas in the region. After Rwanda’s genocidal Hutu regime was overthrown, more than 2 million Hutus are believed to have fled into what was then Zaire—now the Democratic Republic of the Congo—fearing reprisals against them by the new Tutsi-dominated Government. Among them were many of the militiamen who had been responsible for the genocide. They quickly allied themselves with the Government and began to attack the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s sizeable population of ethnic Tutsis, who had lived in the country for generations. It is widely believed in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo that the Rwandan genocide was the start of the region’s more recent problems.
An article that was written by the journalist, Maud Jullien for the 20th anniversary commemorations five years ago noted that the massacres of Hutus in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo have largely been forgotten. The article quoted a human rights activist in Goma who told Maud Jullien:
“people don't talk about it enough ... but the Rwandan genocide was like flicking over the first domino”.
I have never been to Rwanda, but I have been to South Sudan, north Uganda and Malawi and have seen the ripple effect from the genocide in Rwanda that was felt right across the region. I have also been to Sarajevo, Belgrade and Srebrenica. As Iain Gray and others have said, it was only one year after the events in Rwanda that we had the awful events in Srebrenica; that flicking over of the first domino was at approximately the same time. It does not seem to matter what part of the world we are in; the same thing can happen.
Iain Gray and John Finnie talked about the language of hate. Probably the most important lesson that we can take from that is that if we start to “other” people and to train people to behave in a certain way because the people that they are targeting are seen as being less than human, this is the outcome. If we take any lesson from this, it should be that it is vital that we be more respectful when we speak to people and that we should not talk about people as if they were a different species from us.
One of the great things that Rwanda has done is to ban the naming of people as Tutsis and Hutus—they are called Rwandans. People are taught in school that they are Rwandans and that they have not to be labelled as Tutsis and Hutus—that is vital.
We have seen it all through history: we saw it in the partition of India and Pakistan; we saw it in the Balkans; and we saw it in Rwanda. It is important that we take that lesson away from here today and treat people with the respect that they deserve.
To be fair to Rwanda, what they have done since then has been quite remarkable. As Jeremy Balfour said, to go through the reconciliation that they have gone through after the events that they had to go through, is quite something. It is the perfect example of humanity at its best.
Hopefully, out of those horrible events, something good will come, and Rwanda will be able to get itself to a place where everybody can forgive—if not forget—what happened during those terrible days. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from the horrible things that happened then as well.13:19
I am pleased to take part in today’s debate and I congratulate Iain Gray on securing it.
As we have heard, Rwanda is a small country on the African continent and is surrounded by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi. Twenty-five years on, we must remember the genocide that took place in Rwanda. I pay tribute to the tone of the debate in speeches by all speakers; Iain Gray set that tone, and I acknowledge that his was a personal and passionate speech, which I am sure we all learned from.
There is no doubt that the Hutus and Tutsis found themselves in a difficult, dangerous and disgraceful situation in the 1990s. Rwanda had had reasonably good support mechanisms in the past, and people had lived together and supported one another, even though there were differences between individuals and tribes.
The problems went back to the United Nations in the 1960s, when Rwanda was ruled by Belgium. During that time, the colonials thought more of the minority group than the majority, which might have started the process that ended up with the crash of the presidential plane in Kigali in 1994. No culprits were found and that was when the situation started. The crash set the tone for what took place. Within hours of the crash, the presidential guard, members of the Rwandan armed forces and Hutu militias set up roadblocks and barricades and began slaughtering people around the country. It started in the capital but quickly spread and, as we have heard, 1 million people were slaughtered in 100 days. The number of days is inconsequential in some respects, but the fact that the slaughter of that number of people could take place in 1994, which is not that far back in our memories, has had a huge impact on us all.
It is right that we remember the aftermath and the extreme nationalism of those dark days, but Rwanda has built on the difficulties that it once faced. The scars run deep, but great links have developed between Rwanda and Scotland, which we have heard about in the debate. I acknowledge that many organisations have played their part. We must also acknowledge the work that has been done in other parts of the continent, such as the structures that have been put in place in Malawi.
Although we can still focus on what happened 25 years ago, it is vitally important that Scotland plays its part in the rebuilding of Rwanda now. Scotland already has grass-roots connections through the Rwanda Scotland Alliance, and there is an honorary consul for Rwanda in Scotland. I pay tribute to the charities—such as Tearfund, which we heard about earlier—that put in a huge amount of effort to ensure that basics for life are given to the individuals who live and work in that environment.
We must continue to forge links with the country and ensure that the story of the development of civil and political rights in Rwanda since the civil war continues. The Scottish Government should continue to take any opportunity to work in partnership with Rwanda and to raise the issues loudly and clearly. Much has been achieved, but there is still much to be done.
We must never forget the genocide that took place. As other members have said, we turned our back on it, which was a major flaw.13:23
I thank all members who have spoken in today’s debate on the 25th anniversary commemoration of the genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda, which has been remarkably moving. I particularly thank Iain Gray for securing the debate and for his incredibly moving and powerful opening speech.
On 7 April, Rwanda began its period of 100 days of mourning to commemorate the 1994 genocide. “Kwibuka” means “to remember” in Kinyarwanda, and the word describes the annual commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis in Rwanda, which is the time to remember those who died. Today in Parliament—and over the past three weeks across the world—we have come together to remember the genocide of 1994 in which, as other members have said, 1 million Tutsi people died.
On 13 April, I had the honour of joining the Rwandan high commissioner to the United Kingdom and members of the Rwandan diaspora here in Scotland—the Rwandan Scots community—at a service to commemorate the 25th anniversary. That gave me the opportunity to extend to Rwandans—those in Scotland as well as those in Rwanda—and to the Rwandan Government our deepest consideration at this time of commemoration and to reassure our Rwandan friends of our thoughts and prayers, as we committed together to remember those who died.
That commemoration service took place in Musselburgh and was hosted by East Lothian Council, reflecting the links that have developed in recent times between Rwanda and East Lothian and other parts of Scotland. As Iain Gray mentioned, Rwanda was first connected with East Lothian for the Glasgow Commonwealth games in 2014, through the “Support a second team” programme. The programme sought to use sport to foster and develop links and partnerships between Commonwealth regions, with East Lothian going on to host representatives from the Rwandan Commonwealth games team. It is a tribute to the people of East Lothian and Rwanda that those links have continued, so it was fitting that the commemoration service took place there, just a few weeks ago.
Over the 25 years since 1994, Scotland’s links with Rwanda have strengthened and deepened, as other speakers have mentioned. There are now many sectors, from education, health, civil society and faith groups to Government and business, that have connections to Rwanda and are creating more, and that is reflected in the Scottish Government’s international development programme. In 2008, the Scottish Government funded its first development project in Rwanda, and we are proud that in 2016, following a refresh of our international development strategy, Rwanda became one of four partner countries under the Scottish Government’s international development programme. Our Rwanda programme expanded and its diversity of projects now includes support for building the capacity of Rwandan coffee co-operatives, which we have recently expanded, and partnerships to support victims of sexual and gender-based violence and empower women to enjoy equal rights.
Also on gender equality, we have with Comic Relief supported projects in Rwanda under the “Levelling the field” girls’ leadership through sport programme, using football, basketball, cricket and other sports as tools for development and a connector between people and nations.
What all those projects have in common is Rwandans’ commitment to community, to developing Rwanda and to doing so with Rwandan solutions, underpinned by a clear belief in the future of the country that permeates throughout Rwandan society. It is that belief in the modern nation of Rwanda coming out of the awful genocide against the Tutsis in 1994 that is important to remember.
The wealth of connections and relationships that have built up over the past 25 years between Scotland and Rwanda has been rewarding for all. We have heard about some of those links and partnerships in other speeches. However, there is more to do and, as I said earlier, we in the Scottish Government are very proud to be in partnership with Rwanda in our international development programme. From conversations that I have had, I know of the enthusiasm that there is, not just in the international development sector but across other sectors, to continue to build our relationship with Rwanda.
Today, of course, we are having this debate on the 25th anniversary commemoration to look back and remember. I am sure that I speak for other members and, indeed, the whole Parliament when I say again, as I did on 13 April, that the Scottish Government extends to the Rwandan diaspora in Scotland, the people back in Rwanda and the Rwandan Government our deepest consideration at this time of commemoration. We do that while also looking forward, with the people of Rwanda, to a bright future. It is our wish that Rwanda will continue to flourish in peace and hope in the decades ahead. We stand in solidarity with our Rwandan friends as they remember the genocide against the Tutsis in 1994. We remember, we unite and we support them as they renew.13:31 Meeting suspended.
14:00 On resuming—