Rwanda’s Kagame Clashes with Blinken Over Genocide Recognition

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with African ministers at United Nations headquarters, May 18, 2022. © 2022 Eduardo Munoz/Pool Photo via AP

On April 7th, 2023, during the 30th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, a tweet from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken sparked a pointed response from Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame. Blinken’s tweet, which commemorated the thousands of Tutsis, Hutus, Twas, and others lost during the 100 days of violence in 1994, was criticized for not clearly identifying the Tutsis as the primary victims of the genocide.

President Kagame, addressing the nation and the international community, emphasized the significance of April 7th as a day of remembrance, requesting global solidarity without subsequent criticism for the rest of the year. “Give us this April 7th, commemorate with us, and then you can spend the remaining 364 days blaming us for everything you don’t like about us,” Kagame stated.

This year’s commemoration was marked by Kagame’s revelation of an alleged decade-old agreement with American authorities, wherein they promised not to criticize the genocide anniversary. The Rwandan government maintains that any ambiguity in identifying the genocide victims is an attempt to distort history and disrespect the memory of the victims.

The issue is particularly sensitive for Kagame and his administration due to accusations from various United Nations reports and human rights organizations. These reports allege that Kagame’s Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Hutus before, during, and after the Rwandan genocide in both Rwanda and neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Tensions between Rwanda and the DRC have escalated, with both nations accusing each other of supporting armed groups in eastern Congo. In February 2023, the United States explicitly urged Rwanda to withdraw its troops and missile systems from eastern Congo, marking the first time the M23 rebel group was publicly labeled as backed by Rwanda.

Kagame defended the M23, claiming they fight for the rights of Congolese Tutsis, with at least 100,000 seeking refuge in Rwanda after fleeing attacks in eastern Congo. The Rwandan government asserts its military presence in the DRC is to deter rebels, including extremist Hutus responsible for the genocide, who have since taken refuge in the region.

The U.S. officials have not commented on the matter as of Monday following the commemoration.