Thousands of Rwandans, as well as President Paul Kagame and First Lady Jeannette Kagame marked the 25th anniversary of the country’s 1994 genocide in a somber ceremony on Sunday. The Kagames laid wreaths at a mass burial ground where 250,000 victims have been laid to rest, and leaders from across Africa, the European Union, and Canada also came to take part.
“In 1994, there was no hope, only darkness. Today, light radiates from this place … How did it happen? Rwanda became a family once again,” Kagame said.
The president added that “our people have carried an immense weight with little or no complaint. This has made us better and more united than ever before.”
“What happened here will never happen again.”
On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana, an ethnic Hutu, was shot down. Ethnic Tutsis were blamed for the killing, causing bands of extremists to begin slaughtering Tutsis, supported by the army, police, and militias. The violence lasted for 100 days and left 800,000 people dead.
Kagame has ruled Rwanda since the end of the genocide. He has helped steer the country through economic recovery, but has been accused of rights abuses as well as failing to lead a national reconciliation about the violence. Many of the killers remain freeand many families were never able to locate their relatives’ remains.
President Kagame has also publicly accused the 1994 Hutu-led government of shooting down his predecessor’s plane, and has said the French government, which has soldiers stationed in Rwanda, turned a blind eye.
French President Emmanuel Macron has ordered an investigation into whether his country’s government played a role in the genocide, and declared his intention to make April 7 a national day of remembrance.
Later, Kagame will lead a candlelight vigil in Kigali’s National Stadium, where 25 years ago many Tutsis sought shelter from the violence under the protection of UN troops. Some 30,000 people are expected to attend.
AP, AFP, Reuters