Rwanda is observing an official period of mourning for the 18th anniversary of the country's 1994 genocide.
The peaceful sound of water running in a fountain at the Kigali Genocide Memorial was a stark contrast to the sounds of violence that gripped Rwanda from April to July of 1994.
The Rwandan genocide, one of the most devastating massacres in recent decades, is estimated to have killed 800,000 people. President Paul Kagame lit a flame of remembrance at the memorial that will burn for 100 days, marking the length of the time during which the tragedy’s victims - mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus - lost their lives.
Skulls of Rwandan victims rest on shelves at a genocide memorial inside a church at Ntarama just outside the capital Kigali (file photo).
Thousands of Rwandans gathered in the national stadium later to remember lost loved ones and to hear Kagame address the country. The president offered not only words of remembrance, but also words of caution.
“We will always remember them so that even those who did not experience it may learn the history of the genocide and its causes, and know lessons that will make it impossible to repeat it.”
Kagame went on to admonish countries that harbor fugitives suspected of planning and participating in the genocide.
“There is little effort to apprehend them and when this happens it is a token meant to blind us and give us the impression that they are doing justice.”
All of Rwanda’s schools, sports arenas, nightclubs and other entertainment outlets will be closed for a week. Everyone is expected to use the time to reflect on what happened in the country 18 years ago.