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Rwanda Commemorates 15th Anniversary of Genocide That Killed 800,000


Fifteen years after the genocide that took the lives of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu, Rwanda still struggles to find a way to remember its past, while moving towards the future.

Visitors to the Rwanda's capital, Kigali, are impressed by the cleanliness and safety of its streets. Most are amazed that this is the same country that was ripped apart by genocide just 15 years ago.

But many here remain deeply traumatized. Today marks the 15th anniversary of the day that former President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane was shot down. The genocide started within hours.

"We are not like those who said 'Never Again'. Yet they abandoned those they were responsible for, they were supposed to protect, and abandoned them even before any shot was fired at them." said President Paul Kagame, who, like many Rwandans, blames the international community for not doing enough to stop the genocide.

The site of the ceremony in Nyanza is remembered by Rwandans as the place where thousands were massacred after the Belgian peacekeepers who were protecting them left the country.

Throughout the president's speech many of the survivors in attendance were overcome with grief for lost loved ones. Some even relive those nightmarish days. The worst cases fight furiously against the Red Cross volunteers trying to help them, convinced the volunteers are the militias coming to kill them.

Jeff Maladi says you have to forgive in order to move on. "It is better to forgive. Because, if you kill my brother, then I come and pillage your family. We shall not have Rwanda, because all people are going to die," he said.

Minister of Information Louise Mushikiwabo says many Rwandans struggle with the conflict between the past and the future. ""What many Rwandans face today is quite contradictory, where you are remembering but you have to forget in order to continue to live," he said.

President Kagame is working to find a balance between the pull of the future and the weight of the past. "We have to continue to move and look forward. That is what will give the real meaning to the many sacrifices the people of Rwanda have rendered to their country," he said.

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