KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Rwanda on Tuesday said Belgium has decided to recall two diplomats after the East African nation accused them of organizing a commemoration of the 1994 genocide a day before official mourning started and without informing local authorities.
In a statement, Rwanda’s government said the diplomats organized the commemoration on April 6. Rwanda says the genocide that killed more than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis, and Hutus who tried to protect them, started on April 7.
The diplomats were commemorating the 10 Belgian peacekeepers who were killed on April 7 while trying to protect Rwandan Prime Minister Agathe Uwilingiyimana, who was killed on the same day. The Belgian embassy did not comment.
April 6 is the day that the plane of President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down over the capital, Kigali, sparking the genocide.
Timing of commemorations is highly sensitive for Rwanda’s government as some genocide perpetrators or supporters allege that a separate genocide against the Hutu began the day the plane was shot down.
“Some of the key symbols used during commemoration ceremonies like the lowering of the national flag to half-mast are provided for by the law and thus cannot be done without following the right procedure,” the foreign affairs ministry said.
“The government of Rwanda protested to the government of Belgium, which decided to recall the two diplomats.”
Naphtal Ahishakiye, executive secretary of genocide survivors’ organization Ibuka, told The Associated Press the Belgian diplomats were wrong to hold a commemoration on that day, before the mass slaughter began.
“How can they start commemorating about something that hasn’t taken place?” asked one genocide survivor, Emmanuel Ingabire. “The diplomats are being arrogant.”