Sunday marked the 19 anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group of Rwanda.
More than 800,000 men, women and children were killed in a wave of violence that began when majority Hutus began slaughtering minority Tutsis in April 1994.
In a commemoration message, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on nations to protect their populations and prevent abuses. U.S. President Barack Obama said Americans honor the victims and express solidarity with the survivors.
Yvette Rugasaguhunga is a genocide survivor and organizer of a forum held in Washington to commemorate the anniversary. She said, while Rwandans remember the tens of thousands who died, they also want to reconcile and move forward.
“We kept in mind that this is the moment to reflect, to remember our beloved ones that were lost tragically 19 years ago. But, those memories remind us that we should honor our beloved ones by moving forward, by rebuilding our lives. That does not mean that our problems are going to disappear in a second. But, we believe, so long as we work together as one people, there is no doubt that the future belongs to us,” she said.
Rugasaguhunga said relations between Hutus and Tutsis have remarkably improved since 1994.
“I look at myself, where I am as a person, and I look at how much I have grown in terms of forgiveness, in terms of understanding that what happened in the past should not stop me from looking at a Hutu son and a Hutu daughter as a fellow Rwandan,” Rugasaguhunga said.
She welcomes the 19 anniversary commemoration messages.
“We do appreciate those messages because, unlike 19 years ago, today we felt like the international community rose with us this morning as we stood up to reconfirm our commitment to never again [commit such an atrocity]. But, also, they are empowering. They remind us that we can only move forward by working together, by remaining united,” Rugasaguhunga said.