The 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Rwanda genocide by a tweet from President Clinton about the country’s humanity as UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon admitted the world body still felt “shame” from its inaction to stop the slaughter.
Hutu militants slaughtered some 800,000 people over the course of 100 days in 1994. A ceremony marking the solemn anniversary in Kigali included a dramatic reenactment of the UN blue helmets leaving the people in their hour of need.
Clinton, who has admitted that his administration could have and should have done more to stop the murderers armed with machetes, did not attend the anniversary ceremony. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair did, along with Ban.
“In the face of violence in Rwanda, the Security Council withdrew the United Nations peacekeeping operation, thereby taking away the sorely needed international ‘eyes and ears’ on the ground. The United Nations was also deeply tarnished by its actions and inactions at Srebrenica. So, we have worked hard to draw on the lessons of those failures,” Ban said at the International Conference on the Prevention of Genocide in Brussels.
“There are grounds for encouragement. No longer can it be claimed that atrocity crimes are only a domestic matter, outside the realm of international concern. At the same time, there are far more reasons for worry. The international community often proves reluctant to act, at times even when atrocity crimes are happening. The reasons may vary, from competing definitions of national interest, to the complexities and risks of a given situation, to a perceived lack of capacity. There may be little appetite for new financial or military commitments. But, is that sufficient reason to look away? Is that not merely an echo of what we heard 20 years ago?” he continued. “The conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic are nightmares for the vulnerable most directly affected. But, they are also a challenge to everything we have put in place — the pledges, the mechanisms — to exercise our collective responsibilities to prevent such crimes from happening or recurring.”
President Obama issued a statement noting that the genocide “shook the conscience of the world.”
“We salute the determination of the Rwandans who have made important progress toward healing old wounds, unleashing the economic growth that lifts people from poverty, and contributing to peacekeeping missions around the world to spare others the pain they have known,” Obama said.
“At this moment of reflection, we also remember that the Rwandan genocide was neither an accident nor unavoidable. It was a deliberate and systematic effort by human beings to destroy other human beings. The horrific events of those 100 days—when friend turned against friend, and neighbor against neighbor—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,” he continued. “The genocide we remember today—and the world’s failure to respond more quickly—reminds us that we always have a choice. In the face of hatred, we must remember the humanity we share. In the face of cruelty, we must choose compassion. In the face of intolerance and suffering, we must never be indifferent. Embracing this spirit, as nations and as individuals, is how we can honor all those who were lost two decades ago and build a future worthy of their lives.”
Rwandan President Paul Kagame wrote in the Wall Street Journal that the divisions that led to the genocide were put in place by colonial rulers who categorized Rwandans as Hutu or Tutsi.
“Africans are no longer resigned to being hostage to the world’s low expectations. We listen to and respect the views of others. But ultimately, we must be responsible for ourselves,” he wrote.
“A few years ago I met a young man who was one of 12 people pulled alive from under 3,000 corpses in a mass grave at Murambi. He still lived nearby, totally alone. When the perpetrators he recognized came home from prison, terror surged again through his body. I asked him how he managed and he told me, ‘I could not do it unless I was convinced that these impossible choices are leading us somewhere.’ To prevent genocide, it is not enough to remember the past. We must also remember the future.”
By placing your shared humanity above your differences and grievances, you inspire us, Rwanda. http://t.co/g9RepLOWgS
— Bill Clinton (@billclinton) April 7, 2014