Latest news: Rwandan president blames world’s inaction on genocide anniversary

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Rwandan President Paul Kagame blamed the inaction of the international community for allowing the genocide of 1994 This will come as Rwandans on Sunday mark 30 years since an estimated 800,000 people were killed by government-backed extremists.

Rwandan authorities have long blamed the international community for allowing extremists to kill some 800,000 people 30 years ago.

Rwanda has shown strong recovery and economic growth in the years since, but scars remain and there are questions about whether genuine reconciliation has been achieved under the long rule of Kagame, whose rebel movement stopped the genocide and seized power. Many have praised him for bringing relative stability, but others have vilified him for his intolerance toward dissent.

Kagame led somber commemorations in the capital, Kigali. Among the foreign visitors was a delegation led by Bill Clinton, US president during the genocide, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

The killings began when a plane carrying then-president Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down over Kigali. Tutsis were blamed for shooting down the plane and killing the president. and became the target of massacres led by Hutu extremists that lasted more than 100 days. Some moderate Hutus who were trying to protect members of the Tutsi minority were also killed.

Rwandan authorities have long blamed the international community for ignoring warnings about the killings, and some Western leaders have expressed regret.

Clinton, after leaving office, cited the Rwandan genocide as a failure of his administration. French President Emmanuel Macron, in a pre-recorded video before Sunday’s ceremonies, said France and its allies He could have stopped the genocide but he did not have the will to do so.. Macron’s statement came three years after he acknowledged the “overwhelming responsibility” of France (Rwanda’s closest European ally in 1994) for failing to stop Rwanda’s slide into carnage.

“It was the international community that failed us all, whether out of contempt or cowardice,” Kagame said in a speech after lighting a flame of remembrance and laying a wreath at a memorial site housing the remains of 250,000 victims. of the genocide in Kigali.

He also shared the story of a cousin whose family he tried to save with the help of UN peacekeepers. She didn’t survive.

“We will never forget the horrors of those 100 days, the pain and loss suffered by the people of Rwanda, or the shared humanity that connects us all, which hate can never overcome,” US President Joe Biden said in a statement.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks at a commemorative event at BK Stadium during the start of the 100 days of commemoration, as Rwanda marks the 30th anniversary of the Tutsi genocide, on April 7, 2024 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame speaks at a commemorative event at BK Stadium during the start of the 100 days of commemoration, as Rwanda marks the 30th anniversary of the Tutsi genocide, on April 7, 2024 in Kigali, Rwanda.

Luke Dray via Getty Images

Rwanda’s ethnic composition remains largely unchanged since 1994, with a Hutu majority. The Tutsis represent 14% and the Twa only 1% of Rwanda’s 14 million inhabitants. Kagame’s Tutsi-dominated government has banned any form of ethnic organization as part of efforts to build a uniform Rwandan identity.

National identification cards no longer identify citizens by ethnic group, and authorities imposed a strict penal code to prosecute those suspected of denying the genocide or the “ideology” behind it. Some observers say the law has been used to silence critics who question government policies.

Human rights groups have accused Kagame’s soldiers of carrying out some killings during and after the genocide in apparent revenge, but Rwandan authorities see the accusations as an attempt to rewrite history. Kagame has previously said his forces showed restraint in the face of the genocide.

Kagame said Sunday that Rwandans are disgusted by critics who have “questioned and revised” the history of the genocide. “Rwandans will always challenge it,” he said, adding that preventing another genocide requires political measures like those currently in place.

“Our journey has been long and hard,” he said. “Rwanda was completely humbled by the magnitude of our loss, and the lessons we learned are etched in blood. But our country’s tremendous progress is evident and is the result of the decision we made together to resurrect our nation.”

And he added: “The basis of everything is unity. That was the first option: to believe in the idea of ​​a united Rwanda and live accordingly.”

A night vigil will be held later Sunday as part of a week of commemorative activities.

Naphtal Ahishakiye, leader of Ibuka, a prominent survivors group, told The Associated Press that keeping the memory of the genocide alive helps combat the mentality that allowed neighbors to attack each other, even killing children. Thirty years later, mass graves are still being discovered in Rwanda, a reminder of the scale of the killings.

“It is a time to learn what happened, why it happened, what the consequences of the genocide are for us as genocide survivors, for our country and for the international community,” Ahishakiye said.

He said his country has come a long way since the 1990s, when only survivors and government officials participated in commemoration events. “But nowadays even those who are relatives of the perpetrators come to participate.”

Kagame, who grew up as a refugee in neighboring Uganda, has been Rwanda’s de facto ruler, first as vice president from 1994 to 2000 and then as acting president. He was elected to the position in 2003 and has since been re-elected several times. Candidate in the elections scheduled for July, he won the last elections with almost 99% of the votes.

Human rights activists and others say the authoritarian Kagame has created a climate of fear which discourages open and free debate on national issues. Critics have accused the government of forcing opponents to flee, imprisoning them or making them disappear, while some are killed under mysterious circumstances. Kagame’s most serious political rivals are his former Tutsi comrades now living in exile.

Although largely peaceful, Rwanda has also had troubled relations with its neighbors.

Recently, Tensions have flared with the Congo., and the leaders of the two countries accused each other of supporting armed groups. Relations with Burundi have also been strained by accusations that Kigali backs a rebel group attacking Burundi. AND relations with Uganda They have yet to fully normalize after a period of tensions stemming from Rwandan accusations that Uganda was backing anti-Kagame rebels.

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