Kwibuka: Remember Rwanda’s genocide

Photo credit: Noor Khamis/Reuters

Today, we join with the people of Rwanda to remember the genocide that took place there twenty years ago.

In Kigali and across the country, Rwandans gathered to mark the anniversary of the deaths of nearly a million people in a terrible conflict. A flame of remembrance was carried across the country to the national genocide memorial, where it will burn for 100 days.

The official “Kwibuka” mourning – meaning “remember” in Kinyarwanda – begins on 7 April and ends on July 4, Rwanda’s liberation day.

“The lessons of this terrible time are critically important,” said Michael Elliott, President and CEO of ONE. “Too many governments ignored what was taking place in 1994, when countless innocent lives were being lost. Our thoughts today are with the people of Rwanda, as they remember lost family and friends.”

Delegations from around the world joined Rwandans in ceremonies marking the anniversary. Michael Gerson, Senior Fellow at the ONE Campaign and Columnist for the Washington Post, is a member of the U.S. delegation, led by Dr. Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

The killings began on April 6, 1994, after the country’s president, Juvenal Habyarimana, was killed when his plane was shot down. Militia from Rwanda’s Hutu ethnic group set up roadblocks and murdered men, women and children, predominantly from the smaller Tutsi group.

“The scale of the brutality in Rwanda still shocks: an average of 10,000 deaths per day, day after day, for three months,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

“The horrific events of those 100 days – when friend turned against friend, and neighbour against neighbour – compel us to resist our worst instincts, just as the courage of those who risked their lives to save others reminds us of our obligations to our fellow man,” said U.S. President Barack Obama.

“The genocide we remember today — and the world’s failure to respond more quickly — reminds us that we always have a choice.”

“Kwibuka means ‘remember’ in Kinyarwanda, Rwanda’s language,” says the Rwandan government’s official website. “More than one million Rwandans died in the hundred days of the genocide. It was one of human history’s darkest times. Twenty years later we, Rwanda, ask the world to unite to remember the lives that were lost.”

“We ask the world to come together to support the survivors of the genocide, and to ensure that such an atrocity can never happen again – in Rwanda or elsewhere.”