‘World Failed Us During Rwanda’s Genocide In 1994’, President Paul Kagame Says

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FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak shakes hands with Rwandan President Paul Kagame at Downing Street in London, Britain May 4, 2023. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls/File Photo

Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame said the international community “failed all of us”, as the country marked 30 years since the 1994 genocide that killed around 800,000 people.

President Kagame addressed dignitaries and world leaders who had gathered in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali, to commemorate the bloodshed.

“Rwanda was completely humbled by the magnitude of our loss. And the lessons we learned are engraved in blood”, he said.

On this day in 1994, extremists from the Hutu ethnic group launched a 100-day killing spree, in which members of the Tutsi minority and Hutu moderates were slaughtered.

The mainly Tutsi forces who took power following the genocide were alleged to have killed thousands of Hutu people in Rwanda in retaliation.

On Sunday, Mr Kagame and a group of dignitaries placed wreathes on mass graves at the Kigali Genocide Memorial – where more than 250,000 victims are believed to be buried. The president also lit a remembrance flame.

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In a speech later, Mr Kagame thanked fellow African countries including Uganda, Ethiopia and Tanzania for their assistance in accepting Tutsi refugees and ending the genocide.

“Many of the countries representing here also sent their sons and daughters to serve as peacekeepers in Rwanda,” he said.

“Those soldiers did not fail Rwanda. It was the international community which failed all of us. Whether from contempt or cowardice.”

The failure of other nations to intervene has been a cause of lingering shame.

Former US President Bill Clinton, who was among the visiting leaders present, has called the genocide the biggest failure of his administration.

In a video message recorded for the memorial, French President Emmanuel Macron acknowledged that his country and its allies could have stopped the genocide but lacked the will to do so.

France, under then-president François Mitterrand, was a close ally of the Hutu-led government of Juvenal Habyarimana prior to the killings, and Rwanda has accused France of ignoring or missing warning signs and of training the militias who carried out the attacks.

France has consistently denied complicity, but a report commissioned by Mr Macron three years ago concluded that France bears “heavy and overwhelming responsibilities”.

Former US President Bill Clinton and current South African President Cyril Ramaphosa were among the world leaders present.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné attended the ceremony in Kigali in place of Mr Macron on Sunday. Other visiting dignitaries included Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Israel’s President Isaac Herzog.

Sunday’s events mark the beginning of a week-long mourning period across Rwanda. Music, sport and films will be banned from broadcasting on radio or TV and national flags will be flown at half-mast.

The streets of Kigali have been unusually quiet, according to the BBC team there, with no traffic, many shops closed, and few pedestrians.