World, Africa

Rwanda marks 27 years since genocide

President Kagame urges countries to try genocide suspects or hand them over to Rwanda to face justice

James Tasamba   | 07.04.2021
Rwanda marks 27 years since genocide

KIGALI, Rwanda

Rwanda on Wednesday began a week of commemoration and 100 days of mourning to mark the 27th anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group.

About 1 million people, mostly of the Tutsi community and moderate Hutus, were killed in the genocide by Hutu extremists during a massacre within a span of 100 days.

President Paul Kagame and first lady Jeannette Kagame alongside the dean of the diplomatic corps and representatives of survivors laid wreaths at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where over 250,000 victims are laid to rest.

Kagame then lit the "Flame of Remembrance" at the memorial.

"Remembering is necessary to remind ourselves of the truth about our tragic history and avoid what can lead us back. A family that does not remember can be easily wiped out," said Jean Damascene Bizimana, the executive secretary of Rwanda's Commission for the Fight against Genocide.

French report

This year's commemoration comes days after a French commission appointed by President Emmanuel Macron in April 2019 said France was politically responsible for inaction amid preparations for genocide committed by extremist Hutus; but downplayed the country’s role as an accomplice to the genocidal operation.

Commenting on the report, Kagame said it "marks an important step toward a common understanding of what took place."

"It also shows the desire even for leaders in France to move forward with a good understanding of what happened. We welcome the report, it is a good thing."

The Rwandan leader also faulted countries offering genocide suspects safe haven, urging them to either try them in court or hand them over to Rwanda to face justice.

Rwanda's Genocide Fugitives Tracking Unit data shows that more than 1,000 suspects have taken refuge in different countries including France, the US, Netherlands and Canada.

International Day of Reflection

In a message marking the annual April 7 International Day of Reflection on the 1994 genocide against Tutsis, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on countries to take a hard look at today’s world and ensure that the lessons of 27 years ago are heeded.

"Today, around the globe, people are threatened by extremist groups determined on boosting their ranks through social polarization and political and cultural manipulation. These extremist movements represent the principal security threat in many countries," he said.

"While the technology and techniques that extremists use are evolving, the vile messages and rhetoric remain the same. The dehumanization of communities, misinformation and hate speech are stoking the fires of violence."

Guterres noted that the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the urgency of addressing deepening divides.

While Rwanda may not be wealthy or healthy and with vulnerabilities like any other country, Rwandans are resilient and full of purpose, Kagame said at the ceremony.

On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying the former Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana and President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi was downed by a rocket attack, killing everyone on board.

The plane crash triggered the massacres by Hutu extremists.

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