Reports say, the trial of a former high-ranking Rwandan official accused of crimes of genocide is due to start in Belgium. For victims and their families, the case is a culmination of a decades-long fight for justice since Africa’s largest genocide in modern history.
For 25 years it has been a fight of doubt, of pain, of patience, but also of perseverance.
On a Sunday in April 1994 Martine Becker’s life changed forever. She received a call announcing the death of her family. They had lived in Rwanda for 17 years. Claire, her sister, ran an ice cream shop in Kigali. Isaiah, her husband, was a civil engineer, but decided to work with his wife out of fear. Their daughter Katia was just 18 years old. Beckers’ relatives did not have time to escape.
“Militiamen who were called ‘Interahamwe’ arrived and killed them. My sister first by a bullet in the head,” Beckers explained.
Today, the person responsible for the murder of her family and their neighbors will be brought before the Belgian courts. While this is an important step to break the truth for Beckers, this is not an end in itself.
“I wait without believing that the one who played a determining role in this assassination recognizes his responsibility. I’m waiting to understand better. I finally wait for justice,” Beckers said.
Beckers believes the accused is not the only person responsible for the death of her relatives. She also wants the Blue Helmets, who lived 500 meters from the house of her relatives to be brought to justice. Beckers blames the Belgian authorities for failing to protect her family.
“[My sister] was very, very scared. She hoped that the soldiers who were cantoned near her home, so Belgian UNMIK soldiers, United Nations forces, could come and save her; that the embassy or consulate could intervene to protect her, but they did nothing,” Beckers said.
According to the UN, the Rwandan genocide between April and July 1994 killed nearly 800,000 people, most of which were of the minority ethnic group Tutsi.