The United Nations secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, has paid tribute to the Genocide victims, saying the best way to honour their memory and the resilience of the survivors is to ensure that genocide never happens again anywhere in the world.
Guterres was speaking at a commemoration event the UN organised in collaboration with the Permanent Mission of Rwanda to the United Nations, marking the 23rd anniversary of the Genocide against the Tutsi.
The commemoration took place under the theme, “Remember the Genocide against the Tutsi - Fight Genocide Ideology - Build on Our Progress.”
“Today we remember all those who perished. We also honour those who survived. We recognise their pain and courage, and the struggles they face even today, a generation later,” Guterres said.
“The only way to truly honour the memory of those who were killed in Rwanda is to ensure that such events never occur again. Preventing genocide and other monstrous crimes is a shared responsibility and a core duty of the United Nations.”
The UN chief said Rwanda had emerged from a period of such shocking cruelty with a strong spirit of reconciliation, and saluted the people of Rwanda.
Speaking at the ceremony, Amb. Valentine Rugwabiza, Rwanda’s Permanent Representative to the UN, said raising awareness among the international community of the collective responsibility to prevent genocide, was the purpose of holding the commemoration at the UN.
“The purpose of the annual commemoration at the United Nations is to continue to raise awareness of the international community about our collective responsibility to prevent genocide from happening anywhere in the world,” she said.
Amb. Rugwabiza noted the need to refer to the Genocide against the Tutsi what it is because a particular group of people was targeted for extermination.
“One of the mechanisms used by Genocide deniers is the deliberate use of confusing language. Whenever we refer to the Genocide against the Tutsi, historical clarity and the use of correct words is of critical importance. What we commemorate today, is the Genocide against the Tutsi, because the Tutsi were the ones targeted for extermination,” the envoy said.
Sonia Mugabo, a Genocide survivor who was four years old in 1994, lost over 100 family members and friends to the Genocide against the Tutsi. She shared her testimony.
“The Genocide against the Tutsi took a million lives and approximately 100 of those lives were my own relatives. It takes time for wounds to heal; most likely, it will take generations. However, in my country, we have tried to find lasting solutions through inherent values that are informed by forgiveness, faith, unity and reconciliation,” said Mugabo.
More than 200 guests, including UN permanent representatives, diplomats, survivors and members of the Rwandan community in New York, attended the ceremony at the UN Headquarters.
To pay respects to the more than one million victims of the Genocide, Guterres, Amb. Rugwabiza, Vice President of the General Assembly Durga Prasad Bhattarai, Mugabo, Carl Wilkens (an American former Adventist humanitarian worker who was in Rwanda during the Genocide), and British author Linda Melvern, lit candles in honour of the victims.
After the event, members of the Rwandan community and friends of Rwanda, gathered at the Permanent Mission of Rwanda, where they engaged in interactive discussions focusing on the theme of this year’s commemoration. A film on the Genocide was also screened.
2017 marks 23 years since the Genocide against the Tutsi, an important occasion to remember the lives that were lost, show solidarity with survivors and unite to ensure it never happens again in Rwanda or elsewhere.
It is also a day to reflect on the country’s journey in reconciliation and nation building.