The only way to truly honour the memory of the more than 800,000 people who perished in Rwanda 17 years ago is to ensure that such tragedies never occur again, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today, as the United Nations observed the annual day of remembrance of the victims of the genocide.
“Preventing genocide is a collective and individual responsibility,” Mr. Ban said in a message for the day, which is observed every year on 7 April. “Rwanda’s survivors have made us confront the ugly reality of a preventable tragedy.”
More than 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and Hutus were murdered in the tiny African nation, mostly by machete, during a period of less than 100 days beginning in April 1994.
The Secretary-General noted that the recognition of the collective failure of the international community to come to the assistance of the people of Rwanda, and to shield the victims of the wars in the Balkans, led to the endorsement by the 2005 World Summit of the responsibility to protect.
Recent measures by the Security Council in response to the crisis in Libya, in particular the adoption of Resolutions 1970 and 1973, mark a significant step along this path, he added.
In addition, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the International Criminal Court (ICC) and other international courts are sending a “strong signal” that the world will not tolerate impunity for gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
“My Special Advisers on the Prevention of Genocide and the Responsibility to Protect monitor developments worldwide looking for early signs of risk. We must remain ever vigilant.”
Mr. Ban paid special tribute to the people and Government of Rwanda for the resilience and dignity they have shown in working towards national recovery and managing the trauma of the genocide.
This year’s commemoration includes a memorial ceremony to be held at UN Headquarters in New York this evening that will honour the victims, as well as the survivors, and emphasize ways in which education can help reconciliation. It will feature musical performances as well as testimony from Immaculée Ilibagiza, a survivor of the Rwandan genocide.
In addition, a student conference will be held on Friday focusing on genocide prevention and feature Francis Deng, the Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Clemantine Wamariya, genocide survivor and student at Yale University.