Poster on genocide in Rwanda
Apr. 11, 2022 (GIN) – Speaking by video on the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the world community to choose humanity over hatred; compassion over cruelty; courage over complacency and reconciliation over rage.
If anyone missed the underlying message, the U.N. chief had quietly linked the horror of the genocide of one million Rwandans to the “sickening violence” now taking place in the Ukraine. While we honor the memory of those who died, he said poignantly, “we must reflect on our failures as an international community.”
As the Secretary-General spoke, Rwandan President Paul Kagame on April 7 laid a wreath at a memorial site in the capital, Kigali, where more than 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed. The ceremony marked the beginning of a week of somber events.
“Imagine people being hunted down day and night for who they are,” the President said. “Also imagine if those of us who were carrying arms, if we had allowed ourselves to pursue those who were killing our people indiscriminately.”
“First of all, we would be right to do so. But we didn’t. We spared them. Some of them are still living today, in their homes, villages. Others are in government and business.”
The Secretary-General drew attention to the principle of Responsibility to Protect; his Call to Action, which puts human rights at the heart of the organization. “I have placed the agenda of prevention at the center of our work”.
Yet, he added, “much more could have – and should have – been done. A generation after the events, the stain of shame endures.”
“Rwanda today stands as a powerful testament of the human spirit’s ability to heal even the deepest wounds and emerge from the darkest depths to rebuild a stronger society”, he continued. After having suffered “unspeakable gender-based violence”, women in Rwanda now hold 60 percent of parliamentary seats.
And Rwanda is the fourth largest UN peacekeeping contributor, which Mr. Guterres said was helping to spare others, “the pain they themselves have known.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine is in flames; old and new conflicts are festering in the Middle East, Africa and beyond – while the Security Council is agreeing “mostly to disagree”.
While looking back with remorse, the Secretary-General urged everyone to look ahead “with resolve” and commit to “be ever vigilant” and never forget.
“Let us pay meaningful tribute to the Rwandans who perished by building a future of dignity, tolerance, and human rights for all,” he concluded.
“We always have a choice,” he said, “and perpetrators can no longer assume impunity.”