KIGALI, Apr 7 – UN chief Ban Ki-moon told Rwandans marking the 20th anniversary of the genocide it should “never again” happen anywhere as many survivors broke down over the loss of nearly a million lives.,
The commemoration also exposed festering anger as Rwanda renewed allegations of French complicity in the genocide that led to France’s official absence from the international ceremony at the national stadium.
In a speech there, Ban admitted the international community was still wracked by the “shame” of having failed to act in Rwanda and making the same mistake a year later during the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia.
“Many United Nations personnel and others showed remarkable bravery. But we could have done much more. We should have done much more. In Rwanda, troops were withdrawn when they were most needed,” the UN secretary general said.
“The shame still clings, a generation after the events.”
The well-planned and viciously executed genocide began late on April 6, 1994, shortly after Hutu president Juvenal Habyarimana was killed when his plane was shot down over Kigali. Roadblocks were set up, with Tutsi men, women and children of all ages butchered with machetes, guns and grenades.
At least 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis and some moderate Hutus, died.
Official mourning began three months ago with a flame of remembrance touring towns and villages across the small central African nation, and culminated on Monday when the torch arrived at the national genocide memorial — where the remains of a quarter of a million people are stored in vast concrete tombs.
Kagame lit a flame that will burn for 100 days, the length of time it took government soldiers and “Hutu power” militiamen to carry out their plan to wipe out the “Inyenzi” – a term meaning “cockroaches” that was used by Hutu extremists to designate minority Tutsis.
Wreathes were also laid, before ceremonies in Kigali’s football stadium where the UN chief, several African heads of state and top diplomats from Europe and the United States were gathered.