International Alexander Langer Award,1998 ex aequo to Yolande Mukagasana and Jacqueline Mukansonera, Rwanda
The board of the association Pro Europa Lentius, profundius, suavius, on the 21st of May in Bologna has assigned the international award dedicated to the memory of Alexander Langer to Yolande Mukagasana and Jacqueline Mukansonera ex aequo
This award to the memory of Alexander Langer wants to put to the attention a case of civil solidarity and courage which has taken place during one of the most tragic events in this Century: the massacre of 800.000 Rwandan citizens – mainly Tutsi, but also many Hutu – perpetrated in the very short period of a few weeks starting from April 7th 1994.
Yolande Mukagasana, a Tutsi woman, and the Hutu Jacqueline Mukansonera at the time barely knew each other, but Jacqueline saved Yolande from a certain death, at the risk of her own life.
In Rwanda in 1994 certainly other similar cases have taken place, as well as during other genocides in other parts of the world.
We want to stress this episode, that Yolande narrates in her book, La mort ne veut pas de moi (ed. Fixot, 1997), “Death did not want me”, because it demonstrates how even in the most extreme and brutal situations there is still space for individual responsibility and initiative and that it is possible to pursue values like tolerance and brotherhood among human beings.
In particular we want to honour Yolande Mukagasana not only because she is a victim of a genocide in which she has lost her entire family, but for her courage and her strong will to survive and to give testimony of her experience, so that such atrocious events shall not be abandoned to oblivion, cannot be repeated and the ones responsible for them do not remain unpunished.
To Jacqueline Mukansonera we don’t want to reward only her courage, inventive and coherence by which she has succeeded in saving Yolande’s life, but also the discretion and modesty she has demonstrated with her resuming work in the Christian association of Rwanda after the genocide.
The award to these two women wants to remember the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, which must not be forgotten because it has taken place in a region considered far from Europe, in the periphery of the world. In the heart of Europe, only half a century ago, Jews and Arians in Germany, Italy, France, Holland, Hungary and in many other countries, found themselves in situations not dissimilar from those of Rwandan Tutsi and Hutu, and they had to face similar choices. And again, in these last years, Croats, Bosnians, Serbs, people in Kosovo and in a different context in Algeria.
To Yolande and Jacqueline we want to say they do not come from an exotic and far away world, but on the contrary that we all live the same indivisible history and that the universal value of human rights is identical.
We also want with this award to express a polemical note to Europe and the Western world.
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda had been announced and openly programmed by the Juvenal Habyarimana regime, with which many countries and in the first place France were entertaining intense relationships of cooperation, also in the military field. The responsibilities of Europe in Rwanda go back in history, when colonial powers manipulated and stressed true or fictional ethnical differences, on the basis of well known policies not enough discussed afterwards if still at the beginning of this decade the same now ex-colonial powers supported a racist regime instead of providing protection to the opposition forces, Hutu and Tutsi, the same which have been the targets and the victims of the massacres.