Wed, Apr 08, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Rwandans mark 15th anniversary of 1994 genocide


Rwanda has chosen a symbolic location to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi minority and highlight “the bankruptcy of humanity” during the 1994 massacres.

Yesterday’s national ceremony was to take place in Nyanza, a hill in Kigali where thousands of people were slaughtered on April 11, 1994, after the Belgian UN contingent that had been protecting them pulled out.

Belgium had decided to pull its troops out after 10 commandos from the UN force were killed by forces from Rwanda’s regular army.

“Nyanza is the failure of the international community, it’s the bankruptcy of the whole of humanity,” said Benoit Kaboyi, executive secretary of Ibuka, the country’s main genocide survivors organization.

“What can we do to ensure that this never happens again, neither in Rwanda nor anywhere else? This is the question facing the international community today,” he said.

In a symbol of remembrance, Ibuka moved from the capital’s center to Nyanza hill last May. “We must live near our beloved who were killed in Nyanza, it’s a moral obligation,” he said.

Ibuka said more than 5,000 people — men, women and children mainly from Rwanda’s Tutsi minority — were brutally hacked to death by extremist Hutu militias in Nyanza.

“Remembering will always remain a duty, but we should also look forward. Hope should rise again after death, we owe it to the victims to live, and live in a dignified way,” Kaboyi said.

The authorities in Rwanda have also pushed “the struggle against negationism” as a major theme for the commemoration of the genocide, in which the UN estimates 800,000 people were killed.

Kigali has repeatedly accused the world of not doing enough to hunt down genocide perpetrators still at large — and some nations, notably France, of failing to acknowledge their role in allowing the killings.

Hundreds of suspects sought over their involvement in the killings are living in countries such as France, Belgium, Canada, Kenya and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Wanted by the Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal on Rwanda, they live under false identities or sometimes in the open, as political refugees.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has led the country since his then Tutsi rebel group took over in the aftermath of the genocide, was expected to deliver a speech in Nyanza.

On Saturday, Rwanda launched the “US$1 campaign,” which aims to raise funds to provide housing for children who were orphaned by the genocide.

The genocide remains a source of ethnic tension 15 years after the massacres, with survivors suffering from intimidation by their former foes and Hutus complaining of marginalization by Kagame’s regime.

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