The United Nations General Assembly has marked the 25th anniversary of the Rwanda Genocide with a solemn commemoration in New York.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame told the gathering that while his country was once betrayed by the international community, his people are determined to do their part, working with others to make things better going forward.
“We honour the victims, we honour the courage of the survivors and we honour the manner in which Rwandans have come together to rebuild our nation. We honour and thank you all, those who have been with Rwanda, through these hard times. Remembrance is also an act of prevention, when genocide is dormant, it takes the form of denial and trivialization. Denial is an ideological foundation of genocide. Countering denial is essential for breaking the cycle and preventing any recurrence.”
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called it one of the darkest chapters in recent human history, where more than one million people – overwhelmingly Tutsi, but also moderate Hutu and others who opposed the genocide – were systematically killed in less than three months.
“Today we stand in solidarity with the people of Rwanda. But, our reflection on the Rwandan genocide also must should beyond one country and one moment in history. We must take a hard look at the present. As we renew our resolve to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again, we are seeing dangerous trends of rising xenophobia, racism and intolerance in many parts of the world. Particularly troubling is the current widespread proliferation of hate speech and incitement to violence. Things that were very clearly present in Rwanda immediately before the genocide. They are an affront to our values, and threaten human rights, social stability and peace. “
Survivor Ester Mujawayo-Keiner survived the genocide in 1994, but lost many of her family members including her parents, her husband and many of her siblings.
She is also the co-founder of the Association of Widows in the country. Speaking with French Translation, she addressed her remarks to President Kagame in the room.
“I am here with two ambiguous sentiments, first of all its very difficult for me as a survivor of the genocide perpetrated against the Tutsi 25 years ago, to be here where one could have made a different decision if the Tutsis had been considered human beings with value. If the Geneva convention had been taken seriously before when the Tutsis were exterminated, my relatives would be here and I would not be here. And on the other hand I am happy to be here because I’m alive. We take it for granted but when you go through what we’ve gone through to be alive, it is not that obvious.
“So if I have to thank someone, I would like to thank you Mr President, you saved my life along with my daughters, you saved the lives of many widows and orphans and there are survivors In Rwanda today, we thank you as well as the army that was under your orders at the time,” Mujawayo-Keiner says.