Thursday, April 9, 2009

United States Remembers 1994 Rwandan Genocide

Topics: Daily Coverage, Peace and Security, Democracy, Africa

Keywords: Rwandan Genocide, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer
08 April 2009

Washington — President Obama says the 15th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide is a somber occasion to reflect on the deaths of more than 800,000 people killed “simply because of their ethnicity or their political beliefs.”

“The memory of these events also deepens our commitment to act when faced with genocide and to work with partners around the world to prevent future atrocities. The figure of 800,000 is so enormous, so daunting, that it runs the risk of becoming a statistic,” the president said in a statement April 7.

Between April and July 1994, an estimated 800,000 Rwandan men, women and children were killed in 100 days. Those killed included Tutsis and some moderate Hutus. The genocide was sparked by the death of Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, when his airplane was shot down flying above the Kigali airport on April 6, 1994.

“As we mourn their senseless passing, we must also acknowledge the courageous men and women who survived the genocide and have since demonstrated remarkable strength and generosity in forgiving those who committed these heinous acts,” Obama said.

The United States has partnered with Rwanda to promote sustainable development, respect for human rights and lasting peace in Rwanda.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Rwandans “have worked heroically over the past 15 years to repair their lives and move forward. We are inspired by their example and offer our support in their extraordinary political, economic and social rebuilding.”

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reflected on her own memories of the genocide. She was a staff member on President Clinton’s National Security Council when she visited Rwanda six months after the ethnic cleansing.

“For me, the memory of stepping around and over those corpses will remain the most searing reminder imaginable of what our work here must aim to prevent,” Rice said at the special commemorative event at the United Nations April 7 in New York.
“Rwanda holds its own tragic place in the 20th century’s grim litany of mass murder,” Rice said.

Rice said Rwanda did not suffer from “ancient hatreds” between Hutu killers and Tutsi victims. “It suffered from modern demagogues, from the ex-FAR [Forces Armees Rwandaises], from the Interahamwe, from Radio Mille Collines. It suffered from those who were willing to kill in the warped name of ethnic difference, from those who saw division and death as a path to power.”

“And it suffered from an international community, international institutions, and individual governments — including my own — that failed to act in the face of a vast, unfolding evil.”

The full text of Obama's statement, the full text of Rice's statement and the full text of Clinton's statement are available on

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At April 10, 2009 at 5:29 PM , Blogger Mamadou Kouyate said...

This is a nice article.
For the first time a US official implicitly recognizes that Kagame and his RPA sought division and death as a path to power. This fact has been extensively documented by reliable sources and there is no shortage of witnesses or survivors of the RPF atrocities in Rwanda before, during and after the genocide. What is crucially lacking is the political willingness from some Western Powers to end the culture of impunity widespread in the African Great Lakes Region"

At April 10, 2009 at 5:38 PM , Anonymous JG said...

I strongly agree with President Obama about the figure of 800,000 killed during the 1994 genocide being so enormous, so daunting, as runs the risk of becoming a statistic.

But how about the 5,000,000 plus killed in Congo by those who stopped the genocide in Rwanda?

Is there any reason the figure of Rwandans killed has more weight than the figure of Congolese people killed and who are still being killed as of now?

Is there any reason we could believe each one the 5,000,000 plus killed in Congo did not have their own story, their own family, and their own dreams?

This is not meant to undermine the death toll of the 1994 genocide whatsoever.

Instead, I am insinuating that both Rwanda and DRCongo being neighbors and living similar nightmare should be equally remembered, honored, comforted and commemorated for these atrocities in their memories.

Moreover, as America has failed to stop the 1994 genocide it had seen coming, the least President Obama could do, is to express his sympathy to the people of Congo for the genocide going on now in their country, condemn the act and actors, and request to stop it.

This will at least hint the commitment to act when faced with genocide President Obama expressed in his statement.

At April 16, 2009 at 12:03 AM , Anonymous JG said...

I am so thankful to the ambassador Rice for her remarks on remembrance of Rwandan genocide. Ambassador Rice rightly expressed compassion about the tragedy that engulfed Rwanda since the 1990’s.

Being from Rwanda and knowing the Rwandan community relation of before and after 1990, I felt uplifted when she stated a belief I have held for long time. Here is how she put it: “ Rwanda did not suffer from “ancient hatreds” between Hutu killers and Tutsi victims… It suffered from those who were willing to kill in the warped name of ethnic difference, from those who saw division and death as a path to power”.

I was particularly humbled by her call to rededicating ourselves to our shared commitment to human rights and human dignity. However, there is no way of knowing if the timing of the event was purposefully or mistakenly stated when we know that the Rwandan genocide started in October 1990. More than a call to conscience, I would like hear from her a call to action. As we know today, the chiefs of the Rwandan genocide are still looming free in all over the World and some hold high government posts in the Rwandan Government. Moreover as indicated the recent UN report on the Congo , the Rwandan government is still carrying out another genocide in the DRCongo.

Already more than 5,000,000 live have perished by the hand of those who used ethnic difference, division, death and the Rwandan genocide to achieve their way to power and to maintain power in Rwanda . In all that, the international community is standing by and watching in its usual inaction when faced with atrocities against defenseless people. As of today, Congolese women are being killed after being raped, their son are having their heads chopped off after being sodomized, etc. Where are those voices that express regret for not taking action to stop the Rwandan tragedy? How many more million of Congolese killed are needed to equal the attention of 800,000 killed in Rwanda ?

Today more than ever, there is a great opportunity for the international community to say once and for all that ENOUGH is ENOUGH and order Rwanda to keep their military inside of Rwanda and cut all support for forces that have committed an unbelievable amount of massacres, crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture, rape, amputations, and plundering of minerals among other crimes. The human catastrophe in the Congo demands immediate action.

I would appreciate more if Ambassador Rice had called for action to stop massacres going on in the Congo, to arrest the war criminals that are looming free, to establish fairness in the judiciary system of and for Rwanda.


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