Twenty years ago, the Rwandan genocide saw the deaths of more than one million Rwandans, largely Tutsis and moderate Hutus who were killed by their fellow citizens. This week, Rwanda is commemorating the mass slaughter, beginning with a ceremony so emotional that dozens of mourners had to be carried from the venue.
Rwanda's president Paul Kagame lit a flame at the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center on Monday with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to commemorate the genocide's victims. Kagame said the remembrance went hand-in-hand with moving forward.
As we pay tribute to the victims, both the living and those who have passed, we also salute the unbreakable Rwandan spirit in which we owe the survival and renewal of our country.
The genocide, which occurred over an approximate 100-day period between April and July of 1994, has led to a painful and ongoing reckoning by a country populated with a genocide's perpetrators and survivors — and, additionally, by the global community, who watched the genocide unfold and did nothing meaningful to stop it.
The anniversary has also highlighted the country's attempts at reconciliation among its citizens, an almost unimaginable process that would see murderers and survivors to seek a form of peace with one another — or, at least, with what happened in 1994.
On Monday, Ban acknowledged the UN's complicity and shame at doing nothing to stop the genocide.
...We could have done much more. We should have done much more. In Rwanda, troops were withdrawn when they were most needed. One year later in Srebrenica, areas proclaimed 'safe' by the United Nations were filled with danger, and innocents were abandoned to slaughter. The shame still clings, a generation after the events.
The ceremony wasn't apolitical. Though Rwanda's transforming capital city, Kigali, is viewed as one of the most developed cities on the continent, Human Rights Watch and the country's only opposition party have accused Kagame of authoritarian rule despite economic and other advances.
And on Monday, Rwanda banned France from the ceremony as a result of a diplomatic feud after Kagame accused France of helping parts of the massacre occur in an interview with a French newsmagazine.