ICRC’s 60th Anniversary in Rwanda: Beyond Numbers, a Legacy of Humanitarian Impact”

Christoph Sutter, Umuyobozi wa CICR muri Uganda, Rwanda n'u Burundi

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) commemorates a remarkable milestone in Rwanda as it celebrates 60 years of impactful humanitarian activities. During the anniversary event, Christoph Sutter, the ICRC regional Head of Delegation to Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda, captivated the audience with his speech highlighting the remarkable achievements of this esteemed organization.

During his speech Christoph Sutter, commenced the event by extending a warm greeting to all attendees. Held at the ICRC Delegation in Kigali, the occasion marked the opening of the photo exhibition titled “ICRC in Rwanda, More than Numbers,” showcasing significant moments from the ICRC’s three decades of humanitarian work in the country.

He expressed gratitude to the Government of Rwanda for their longstanding cooperation, highlighting the enduring partnership established over the years. He emphasized the historical significance of the ICRC Delegation building, which had served as a haven during the tragic times of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

Sutter went on to share compelling statistics, underscoring the substantial relief and medical assistance provided by the ICRC during that period. Furthermore, he highlighted the exhibition’s aim to demonstrate the collaboration between the ICRC and the Rwandan government in assisting and safeguarding the Genocide victims, along with the promotion of International Humanitarian Law.

He concluded by inviting the attendees to explore the exhibition, taking into account the building’s limited space and announcing the ICRC Delegation’s forthcoming relocation to new premises in Kacyiru. He expressed gratitude and extended his appreciation with the Kinyarwanda phrase “Murakoze cyane” to conclude his speech.

Read his full speech below:

A very good afternoon to all of you! On behalf of the International Committee of the Red Cross, I warmly welcome you to our Delegation in Kigali for the opening of the photo exhibition “ICRC in Rwanda, More than Numbers”, showing highlights of ICRC humanitarian activities in Rwanda over the last 30 years. We are very pleased to have you all joining us today at the ICRC Delegation in Kigali for this event.

As Representative of the ICRC to Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi, I would like to express my deepest appreciation to the Government of Rwanda for our long cooperation, which has been nurtured over decades. This year in 2023, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is celebrating its 160th anniversary; 2023 marks as well the 60th anniversary of humanitarian activities with Rwanda which started in 1963. In 1990, we established and maintained a permanent delegation in Rwanda in this very same compound. We took over the building lease in 1990 from the previous tenant, the Embassy of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the DPRK. It was another era! In 1994, during the tragic times of the Genocide against the Tutsi people, the ICRC was among the very few humanitarian organizations, together with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which chose to stay and continue to assist victims during these terrible times.

Our ICRC Delegation building has historical value because it opened its doors in 1994 to shelter and save the life of hundreds of people while the Genocide was being engineered. These were times when the ICRC performed lifesaving activities. Allow me to cite few figures on ICRC activities undertaken at that time in 1994:

– the ICRC carried out a major relief and medical assistance programme for 1.2 million people, supporting and rebuilding hospitals, health facilities, water and sanitation infrastructures.

– the ICRC evacuated thousands of wounded from the streets of Kigali with the Rwandan Red Cross and admitted 2,700 patients to its emergency surgical hospitals in Kigali, Kabgayi and Goma.

– the ICRC distributed 89,000 tonnes of food and other basic necessities. – the ICRC handled over 100,000 Red Cross messages, it registered 38,000 children who had lost their families in the chaos.

– the ICRC visited and monitored the situation of 16,000 people detained in connection with the genocide. These ICRC activities in Rwanda were more than Numbers. The photos in the exhibition are a testimony to these troubled times.

The exhibition will also showcase the ICRC cooperation with the Government of Rwanda to assist and protect victims after the 1994 Genocide, providing health services to victims, providing assistance and clean water to IDPs, visiting prisoners, renovating prison infrastructures, offering family links activities to bring families together separated by armed conflict and promoting International Humanitarian Law.

In recent years, ICRC activities gradually evolved from its priority to visit prisoners in Rwanda to a new focus with cross border family reunions separated by armed conflict across the Great Lakes region, training and exchange of expertise with Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) to promote integration of IHL into national legislation and SOPs as well as the partnership with the Rwanda Red Cross to support its capacities as first responder to humanitarian emergencies in Rwanda.

Today we will visit together the ICRC Photo Exhibition displayed along the corridors of this old and venerable building. Don’t feel surprised by the vintage aspect of this old building. The corridors are quiet narrow, therefore we shall not rush all together through the exhibition, we shall visit by groups of 10 visitors to avoid traffic jams.

I wish to add that the photo exhibition shall be open for visitors tomorrow 1st June and Friday 02nd June between 4 and 7.00 PM. The photo exhibition is also our farewell to this historical building in Kiyovu. The ICRC will remain in Rwanda but the ICRC Delegation will move by 01st July to new premises in Kacyiru, located behind the Presidency, next to the British Council.

Murakoze cyane,

Thank you very much!

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