News / Africa

Two Decades After Rwandan Genocide, Has the World Learned its Lesson?

FILE - Mike Nkuzumuwami stands by the rows of human skulls and bones that form a memorial to those who died in the redbrick church that was the scene of a massacre during the 1994 genocide.
FILE - Mike Nkuzumuwami stands by the rows of human skulls and bones that form a memorial to those who died in the redbrick church that was the scene of a massacre during the 1994 genocide.
Gabe Joselow
Rwanda on Monday is marking 20 years since the1994 genocide, with the hope that lessons learned can help prevent future atrocities. But as many times as the international community has said "never again," a failure to act has continued to cost lives.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame will light a national flame of mourning Monday in a ceremony at the Kigali Genocide Memorial.
The April 7 commemoration marks the anniversary of the day violence broke out across the country, as ethnic Hutu militias killed 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in a 100-day rampage.
Across Rwanda, memorials to the victims display skulls and bones broken by machete blades and bloodied articles of clothing worn by the victims - constant reminders of the brutality that destroyed the nation.
Freddy Mutanguha, a survivor, is the country director of the Aegis Trust, which runs the Kigali Genocide Memorial. He said that with 20 years past, now is the time for the new generation to reflect on the past.
“We remember and we honor our victims each and every year, but it's a very important year because children who are born during or after genocide, they are now growing. It's an important opportunity for them to learn and to understand what happened in this country,” said Mutanguha.
Heads of state and other foreign dignitaries, including officials from the United States, Britain and the East African region, are expected in Kigali for the commemorations.
Mutanguha said it also is a good opportunity for international guests to learn from Rwanda.
“It's very important in terms of genocide prevention because those people will come and they will learn about what happens here so that they can prevent it in their own communities,” said Mutanguha.
In an opinion article timed for the anniversary, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged the international community to learn from its failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda, and to take stronger action to confront modern day crises, like the conflicts in Syria and the Central African Republic.
“The international community,” he said, “cannot claim to care about atrocity crimes and then shrink from the commitment of resources and will required to actually prevent them.”
U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda in the early 1990s have been criticized for their inability or unwillingness to stop the genocide, despite warnings.
Simon Adams, Executive Director of the Global Center for the Responsibility to Protect, said the U.N.'s failure in Rwanda prompted a serious moment of reflection.
“I think after Rwanda there was this intense sense in which the international community had to rethink what it means to stand true to those principles embodied in the U.N. charter. So I would like to think that the lesson of Rwanda, the overarching lesson, is to be opposed to the politics of indifference and the politics of inaction,” said Adams.
Meanwhile, recent Rwandan claims of French involvement in the genocide have set back relations between those two countries.
France withdrew a delegation due to attend memorial events this week following remarks by Rwandan President Kagame made to an African news weekly that France played a direct role in the preparation and execution of the genocide.
Paris has long denied the accusation. French foreign affairs spokesman Romain Nadal told VOA the government was surprised by Kagame's remarks, and said they go “against the ongoing process of reconciliation between our two countries.”

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Comment Sorting
by: Mary Lupai from: Juba
April 08, 2014 7:23 AM
Unfortnately in my Country South Sudan, we decided not to learn from Rwanda's experience. Our genocide statred on 15th December 2013 til now it is still on. What a shame on us !

by: Carlos Del Cato from: Chiloquin, OR
April 07, 2014 9:07 PM
The United States hasn't learned in 20 years - the Congress still looks at countries like Rwanda as "not enough like us" to ever get involved other than to pass a resolution saying Don't Do That.

Unequal respect.

by: B Tank from: UK
April 07, 2014 8:31 PM
Thousands innocent died in Rwandan genocide.

The US and its allied including UK's Blair's Government were quick to respond and crush dictatorship regime change in Iraq and in Libya.

Weren't those innocent killed in Rwanda had right to live or was it that there was no economic benefit to either the US , the UK, and its allied countries for lucrative gas and oil contracts.

by: FYoung from: Canada
April 07, 2014 8:25 PM
"Has the World Learned its Lesson?"

Tragically, the answer is no, even in Africa. The Central African Republic and Nigeria seem to be racing toward genocide; pogroms have already started.

And whenever the topic of the suppression of gays and the death penalty for gays come up, most Africans insist self-righteously that foreign countries have no right to interfere with how they choose to eliminate gays. They don't even consider it to be genocide.

by: Dr Pancholi from: India
April 07, 2014 8:11 PM
It is not a one man's deed. Lots of people had to be involved in the massacre. Also hundreds of people who are called civilised were witness. Question is the mind set of both such lot.
Analyse if that has changed? Brut and civil have changed? If the human still love blood, how can you prevent this?

by: Ted Stuebing from: Toronto
April 07, 2014 7:59 PM
Has Rwanda learned its lesson?

by: Frank King from: Canada
April 07, 2014 7:54 PM
Excellent article. The Rwanda genocide helped inspire this essay on the value of all people:

by: Nicholas Akuamoah-Boateng from: Kumasi-Ghana
April 07, 2014 3:52 PM
Mr Nkuzumukuwami, do you have appetite for food? It is very sad! The question is " Is the world learning their lessons"? The question should rather be "are the leaders of the world learning their lessons? Some leaders are discriminatory and such attitude breeds what occured in Rwanda! It is sad!!!!

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