Vigil on the 15th anniversary of the Titanic Express Massacre

 

The full text of my speech. The vigil started at 3.30pm in Trafalgar Square London outside the Burundian Embassy.

I thought I’d tell you, from a purely personal point of view, a little about what it has been like over the last fifteen years since my daughter was killed.

The grief doesn’t get any easier to bear. There isn’t a day goes by that I do not mourn my beautiful, clever and above all loving daughter, Dr Charlotte Wilson.

 

Charlotte’s life was all about love whether, researching cockasackie virus, helping people with the St John’s Brigade or teaching Science in Rwanda.Had she lived she   would have helped to draw up the Science curriculum for secondary schools in Rwanda. It was love for her Burundian fiance, Richard that led her to take that bus in order to meet his family.They too share our grief. A new generation is growing up without ever knowing their Aunty Charlotte or their other Uncle Richard.

 

   and the anger doesn’t get any less .Anger because  still, after fifteen years no one has been put on trial for an attack on innocent civilians in a bus.

 

It wasn’t long before a group was named as  responsible for the attack on the Titanic  Express. Eventually , through the good offices of a courageous employee of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, we had sight of a document written by one Albert Simona describing in detail the loot that had been taken from the ill-fated passengers : mobile phones, clothes and cash among other things.

 

Not only has no-one been brought before a court but the perpetrators of this crime have continued their slaughter. We remember also today the many victims of the massacre at Gatumba in 2004 for which the FNL. with others, claimed responsibility. I should like to pay tribute to the families and friends of the victims of that attack for their campaigning work. We hope one day to see this case of Gatumba taken to the International Criminal Court of Justice., which has been set up since Charlotte was killed.

 

Over the years the family has been given various reasons for the lack of prosecutions including

  • courts in Burundi are so poor they don’t have pencils
  • we can’t arrest Mr Agathon Rwasa, leader of the FNL, because we don’t know where he is. Shortly afterwards a photo of Mr Rwasa appeared in a national newspaper. He was wearing a suit and was about to sign a peace deal. A peace deal which proved worthless. This year he stood for election to the Presidency of Burundi.

 

The family has visited our Foreign and Commonwealth Office many times. The former MP for Edmonton, Andy Love, who was our MP when Charlotte was killed, accompanied us almost always and gave invaluable support. Each time we were introduced to an impressive array of FCO officials and assured that Charlotte’s case was raised with the Burundian authorities at every opportunity. I’m sure it was. Nothing has yet come of these representations and successive Burundian governments seem unwilling or unable to inform us of any progress in the case.

Following one of these meetings a couple of years ago I telephoned the Burundian Embassy. They seemed quite keen to promote trade in Burundi but completely at a loss when I asked what progress had been made with pursuing those who had committed the attack on the Titanic Express. So I wrote them a letter, which received no response. So. I wrote another letter, in French this time and again there was no response. This seems to me a bizarre reaction. What kind of government cannot explain what it is doing to prosecute criminals or to at least offer condolences to a family who has suffered an atrocity on its territory?

 

However things move on.

 

I should like to commend my son, Richard, for the continuing effort he has put in during these fifteen years. He wrote a book, Titanic Express, telling the story and has continued to inform the world about Burundi and about the need for justice, not just for us but for all victims in the region

He has joined forces with a campaigning group of people from Burundi and from the Congo who are now in the UK.   Together they have formed www.allianceforjustice.net and organised this vigil.

 

Today we come here not only to ask for justice for the victims of the Titanic Express massacre but to ask that the ongoing killings in Burundi come to a stop.

I should like to highlight two things

One that by taking sanctuary in this country Wilson and his colleagues have a safe haven from which to campaign for justice in their country. As we face the greatest refugee crisis since 1945, it is important that Britain remains able to welcome refugees who will eventually be able to do something about the situation which led them to flee their country of origin. I have had impressive support in publicising this vigil from Liberal Democrats for Seekers of Sanctuary

Secondly, following the genocide in Rwanda, where the international community stood by and did nothing to stop mass killing, people have felt that this must not happen again. The theory of a responsibility to protect was developed. This means that it is possible to send in a peace -keeping force without waiting for the agreement of the government in power. It looks as though the African Union is prepared to do just that.

 

So, there is hope. We light these candles to represent that hope. Charlotte’s grave in a village outside London bears the inscription, taken from a description of her by her fiance “Elle est une sorte de lumière qui eclaire ma nuit”

Whenever girls are educated, whenever murderers are stopped in their tracks, we light a candle in the darkness.

 

Pour ceux qui sont nouvellement arrivés en Angleterre: Soyez les Bienvenus. Racontez vos histoires. Utilisez nos moyens démocrates pour poursuivre la justice et ensemble nous y arriverons.

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