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Ban Says UN has Moral Duty to Prevent Genocide


U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has marked the 14th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide saying the world body has a moral duty to prevent another genocide. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

Rwandan children dressed in purple - the color of remembrance - helped genocide survivor Eugenie Mukeshimana light a candle to remember the 800,000 Rwandans who died in the 1994 genocide.

Ms. Mukeshimana, six months pregnant at the time, lost her husband, father and other family members in the genocide. She said the sense of loss that survivors feel is very deep.

"There is no way I can begin to express what it feels like when you used to live in a vibrant community and everything is gone in a matter of seconds," she said. "And yet these people are still living and they are still hoping that the future will be better, not only for them but for future generations. However, we are also concerned that what happened to us is happening now to mothers in Darfur and could be happening in the future if we don't pay attention and if we keep standing as bystanders."

It is women like Mukeshimana who Secretary-General Ban honored when he told the gathering that the courage and resilience of Rwanda's genocide survivors is an inspiration and a reminder.

"The United Nations has a moral duty to act on the lessons of Rwanda," said Ban Ki-moon. "That is why this day is also a call to bolster efforts to prevent another genocide. It is a cause I am resolved to pursue, in my time as U.N. Secretary-General and in the years beyond."

The secretary-general visited Rwanda in January, and last month, donated $10,000 from his Trust Fund for Special Projects to a Rwandan government charity that assists genocide survivors.

In his remarks, Mr. Ban added that everyone - governments, the media, civil society and individuals - has a role in preventing genocide and protecting human rights

As part of his effort to strengthen the U.N.'s role in this area, last year Mr. Ban appointed Francis Deng of Sudan as his Special Advisor for the Prevention of Genocide.

In Rwanda, some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed over a 100-day period between April and June of 1994. The genocide began after the plane carrying Rwanda's Hutu president was shot down over the country's capital, triggering mass killings by extremists from the majority Hutus against the Tutsis and those Hutus who had opposed the government.