Global leaders led by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, have joined Rwandans to mark 26 years after the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi, with many calling for collective efforts to protect civilians to ensure that no genocide ever happens again.
In an address on the International Day of Reflection of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda, the UN Secretary-General said that the world should never let such a similar atrocity happen to humanity.
“Today, we recall the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda — when more than one million people were systematically murdered in just 100 days. The victims were overwhelmingly Tutsi, but also included Hutu and others who opposed the genocide,”
“On this Day, we honor those who were killed. And we gain inspiration from the capacity of those who survived for reconciliation and restoration. We must never again let such an atrocity occur,” Guterres said.
The UN head called on the world to say no to hate speech and xenophobia and to reject the forces of polarization, nationalism, and protectionism.
“Only by recognizing that we are all one human family sharing the same planet will we be able to rise to the many global challenges that confront us – from COVID-19 to climate change,” Guterres said.
He said that 26 years on, Rwanda has demonstrated that it is possible to rise from the ashes, to heal and to rebuild a stronger, more sustainable society.
“As we look ahead to accelerating efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, let us take inspiration from the ongoing lesson of Rwanda,” he said.
UN General Assembly President, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said that the unspeakable crimes pierced the conscience of the world, pointing out that it is “our collective responsibility to recommit to protecting civilians and preventing genocide from ever occurring again.
“Early intervention is key, and we must prioritize inclusion by fostering tolerance, combatting hate speech, and promoting intercultural dialogue”, he said.
In memory of the victims, Mohammad-Bande urged everyone to “counter hatred in all its manifestations” as he saluted the courageous survivors and those who tried to prevent the murders.
“I commend all Rwandan troops deployed to United Nations peacekeeping missions around the world. Your service, born from sacrifice, gives hope to us all,” he said in recognition of Rwanda Defence Force (RDF).
The Assembly President said that over the last 26 years, Rwanda has become known for peace and prosperity, adding that “we look forward to even brighter days ahead for Rwandans, who remain united in their commitment to reconciliation”.
“We must learn from their experience. We must always remember, kwibuka, when the national mourning period begins,” he emphasized.
The Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, Tatiana Valovaya said that although 26 years have passed, “the memories of this tragedy are very much alive”.
“The 1994 genocide in Rwanda has changed the collective psyche of an entire nation and left deep scars and traumas in the lives of the survivors”, she said, noting that generations to come will continue “to endure the unbearable pain created by the loss of family members and friends”.
Valovaya said that although Rwanda has learned from its tragedy, as mass atrocities occur with alarming frequency, it is obvious that the international community has not. She noted that around the world, there is a groundswell of xenophobia, racism, antisemitism and intolerance.
“Hate speech not only challenges human rights norms and principles, it also undermines social cohesion, erodes shared values and lays the foundation for violence – setting back the cause of peace, stability, and the fulfilment of human rights for all”, she said, adding that more than a decade later, preventing genocide remains “a cardinal task of our time”.
More messages from various dignitaries and friends of Rwanda continued to pour in, Nicola Bellomo, the European Union Ambassador to Rwanda wrote on Tweeter, “flags are flying half-mast, our hearts are flying in the solidarity with #Rwanda on the 26th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi in 1994,”
“Remember-reunite-renewal, #Kwibuka 26 @EUin Rw,” Bellomo’s message reads.
Patricia Janet Scotland, Secretary-General of Commonwealth in a video address also joined Rwandans in commemorating 26 years after the genocide.
“At this somber time, we remember again with sorrow and solemnity the Genocide against Tutis which took place 26 years ago. The passing of time must not be allowed to dim or diminish our recognition of the shocking scale and dreadful reality of the slaughter and terror that occured in 1994,” Scotland said.
President of the European council, Charles Michel also joined Rwandans to commemorate the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
“Today we commemorate the 26th anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi. We pay tribute to those who lost their lives in one of the darkest moment in our history,” he wrote on Twitter.
“We express our heartfelt solidarity with the government and the people of Rwanda,” he added.
The Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) Mousa Faki Mahamat also expressed his solidarity with Rwandans.
“This is the twelfth year since the African Union started annual commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda. However, this year our commemoration activities have been limited by COVID-19 pandemic. Although we will not formally gathering at the African Union Commission for this event as usual, I encourage you to commemorate this day wherever you are,” he said in a statement.
“This annual commemoration affords us an opportunity to reflect, and continue to the fight against Genocide, its ideology, denial, and impunity with a view to ensure that never again shall Africa experience such heinous crime against humanity,” the communiqué adds.
The Secretary General of the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie Louise Mushikiwabo, also joined Rwandans with a touching message.
“#Kwibuka26 “They tried to bury us, they did not realize we were seeds,” She said quoting a famous quote by President Kagame, adding that “On this April 7, let us remember together the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi in #Rwanda in 1994”.
In Arusha Tanzania, the East African Community (EAC) also held a commemorative event to mark 26 after the genocide but the EAC Secretary General Liberat Mfumukeko was conspicuously missing from the event which was co-organised by the Rwandan High Commission in Tanzania.
Mfumukeko, who is originally from Burundi, has skipped commemoration event for the last four years, in what many see as a political move, at a time when all international and regional bodies join Rwandans to remember over one million people who were massacred in just 100 days.
President Kagame and the First Lady Mrs. Jeannette Kagame officially kickstarted the commemoration week by participating in the wreath-laying ceremony at Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre in Gisozi and lighting the flame of hope.
The brief ceremony was attended by the Head of Diplomatic Corp, Guy Nestor Itoua, the Ambassador of the Republic of Congo to Rwanda and the President of the Umbrella Association of Genocide Survivors Ibuka, Jean Pierre Dusingizemungu as well as few officials in line with the COVID-19 lockdown.