Twenty years on, the world joined Rwanda this week to commemorate one of the biggest human tragedies in modern history--the Genocide against the Tutsi. The international community and the United Nations failed to heed the alarm regarding the frightening developments then in the country.
The consequences of this failure to act are forever engraved in our minds.
Out of the dark past, the visionary leadership of President Paul Kagame has brought new light and hope to Rwanda. Today, Rwanda is a model of post-conflict recovery, reconstruction and inclusive development.
The people of Rwanda have laid a solid foundation for sustainable development, based on the concepts of effective and forward looking leadership, innovation, inclusiveness, safety and security, reconciliation, justice and the rule of law.
The United Nations, learning from the painful lessons of inaction, has been working hard to support the aspirations of the people of Rwanda. It has also actively sought to galvanise action on the principle: “Never Again”.
We are working hard to protect civilians, including our entire staff without distinction on the basis of nationality. We are also working hard to realise the fundamental human right of security for everyone, and never again abandoning people in their time of need.
We put in place mechanisms to ensure full accountability for the crimes committed. The Security Council established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda to prosecute the perpetrators.
We also now have a permanent body, the International Criminal Court (ICC) as the centre-piece of the global system designed to deal with crimes committed against humanity.
The United Nations and the international system are now better prepared to anticipate, prevent and, I would strongly hope, respond to crises. The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon, clearly spoke to all this during his address two days ago at the Amahoro Stadium on 7th April
Importantly, we have seen a lot of progress being registered by Rwanda over the past 20 years.Working with the other development partners; the United Nations has played an important role in the recovery and reconstruction of Rwanda.
Over the last two decades, countless numbers of UN staff have contributed in a dedicated manner to the impressive development results Rwanda has accomplished so far.
Therefore, as we mark this important day and solemnly honor the memories of the victims that perished during the Genocide against the Tutsi, we have also reason to hope for an even brighter future for Rwanda and for the world.
Rwanda is now among the best performing African countries and has firmly placed itself on a positive transformational trajectory.
It is the case that the world has yet to see the last of large scale human tragedies. Since the tragedy in Rwanda, hundreds of thousands of people have died in mass atrocities and tens of millions have been displaced in other parts of the world.
The consequences for victims and their families over the past two decades have been staggering. Recent cases are Syria, Central African Republic and South Sudan. The wider impact has been disastrous in terms of human suffering and security as well as for the economic and social development of entire regions.
This is the reason why UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon launched the “Rights up Front” Action Plan. In essence, the Rights up Front Action Plan seeks to strengthen the United Nations’ ability to prevent large-scale violations of human rights, particularly in conflict situations.
The plan is underpinned by several guiding concepts: prevention measures; early response to risks of real mass atrocities; more unified response by the UN system; sharing information and working more closely with all the Member States, national and international, on human rights violations and need for civilian protection.
If we are to prevent future tragedies, progress requires leadership and courage to speak out at the very early stages – the kind of leadership and the kind of courage, that Roméo Dallaire and a young Senegalese Captain showed 20 years ago.
It also requires the kind of leadership President Kagame and his Government have exhibited in upholding their fundamental responsibilities in a forward looking way and by the international community in effectively assisting in the protection of civilians in times of dire need.
The One UN Rwanda will continue to work hand-in-hand with the people of Rwanda towards lasting peace, inclusive development and protection of human rights – towards a Life of Dignity for All.
Kwibuka 20 should serve once again as a reminder that “We the Peoples” – in the name and the words of the UN Charter - and our faith in fundamental human rights, should remain at the heart of the work of the UN.
The writer is the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Rwanda