United Nations (UN) pays tribute to victims and survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda

The commemoration in the General Assembly Hall was held to remember the victims and honour the survivors and those who tried to stop the genocide. Focus was also on young people who have grown up in its shadow, and on countering hate speech which fuelled the killing and has become a growing global concern today.  […]

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UN News

The commemoration in the General Assembly Hall was held to remember the victims and honour the survivors and those who tried to stop the genocide.

Focus was also on young people who have grown up in its shadow, and on countering hate speech which fuelled the killing and has become a growing global concern today. 

100 days of terror 

“The genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda 30 years ago is a stain on our collective consciousness and a brutal reminder of the legacy of colonialism, and the consequences of hate speech,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres said in his opening remarks. 

More than a million people – overwhelmingly Tutsi, but also Hutu and others who opposed the genocide – were slaughtered over 100 days, starting on 7 April 1994. Many were hacked to death with machetes. 

It was a period when “neighbours turned on neighbours, friends became murderous foes, and entire families were wiped out,” Mr. Guterres recalled. 

“The carnage was driven by an explicit intent to destroy members of a group simply because of their ethnic identity,” he said. 

Never again 

The President of the UN General Assembly, Dennis Francis, said the “horror born of a virulent and senseless level of hatred” that engulfed Rwanda three decades ago “should never be allowed to rear its venomous head again in the human conscience and heart.”

He urged people everywhere to learn about the dangerous consequences of hate speech, especially in the era of social media “where unguarded words we utter can spread like wildfire”, as well as the ramification of international inaction in the face of conflict.

“The genocide against the Tutsis had warning signs which were not fully heeded and it unfolded in full view of the global community – which dismally failed Rwanda by not taking swift action to prevent or stop it,” he said. 

“Let us always remember that peace requires an active effort – and most importantly, prevention.” 

Carrying the memories 

Rwandan song writer and author Claver Irakoze was just a child when the unspeakable violence began. His father taught at a secondary school in Kapagyi, located roughly 40 kilometres southwest of the capital, Kigali, and the family sought shelter there. 

Early on the morning of 28 April, soldiers came to the school and took away 61 men, including his father, loading them “like cargo” onto a truck.  

“That was my last time I saw my father,” he said. “I remember him faintly waving good-bye at me, so powerlessly. It is an image that still comes to my mind whenever I think about him.” 

Mr. Irakoze has since written two children’s books to teach lessons of hope and healing. He is also a husband and the father of a boy, 9, and a girl, 11 – the same age he was when the genocide began.

“Our killers wanted us wiped out, but we are here,” he said. “And through us and our children, we carry the memory of those we lost.” 

Lighting the way forward 

Rwanda has risen from the ashes “becoming an outstanding example of what is possible when a nation chooses the path of reconciliation and renewal,” said Ernest Rwamucyo, the country’s Ambassador to the UN. 

He paid tribute to Mr. Irakoze and other survivors who illuminate the path to healing and reconciliation.  

“In acknowledging the sacrifices made by survivors, we reaffirm our collective resolve that the lessons of history are never forgotten. Their narratives compel us to redouble our efforts in the pursuits of justice, accountability and peace.” 

Remember. Unite. Renew. 

As part of the commemorative events, the UN Department of Global Communications has mounted an exhibit in the Secretariat lobby – Remember.  Unite.  Renew. – that highlights the power of post-genocide reconciliation, the potentially deadly impact of hate speech and what visitors can do to say #NoToHate. 

At the heart of the exhibit is the story of Laurence Niyonangira, who fled the killings in her community, led by former neighbours following targeted hate speech. She lost 37 family members in the genocide. 

“As survivors, we can only heal our wounds with the people who created them,” she said on the reconciliation process with Xavier Nemeye, one of the men who killed her mother and sister.  

The exhibit includes an interactive panel where visitors can voice their support for tolerance and pledge to speak out against hate speech. 

Distributed by APO Group on behalf of UN News.

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