6 April 2014

Rwanda: World Unites Behind Rwanda As It Marks 20 Years After Genocide

Alain Juppé, who was French foreign minister at the time of the Rwandan genocide 20 years ago, says accusations by Kigali that France carries ... ( Resource: Former French FM Calls Rwanda Genocide Claim 'Insulting' )

President Paul Kagame participates in the Global Umuganda at Nyarugenge on March 29, 2014On Friday March 28, U.S. President Barack Obama announced he had chosen ambassador to the UN Samantha Power to lead his country's delegation to ceremonies in Kigali to mark the 20th anniversary of the genocide.

It was a strong signal of solidarity. Samantha Powers has been a strong voice against the failure of the international community, especially the U.S., to stop the 1994 genocide in which about 800,000 people, mainly Tutsi were murdered.

The American delegation includes members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the State Department's special representative for the African Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, former Senator Russell Feingold.

Elsewhere in the world, international news channels like France 24, Al Jazeera, and Radio France international dedicated special coverage starting on April 5.

In the UK, at a meeting at London's King's College, David Russell of the UK charity SURF (Survivors Fund) launched an appeal to the international community to support reparations for survivors of the genocide.

He described how more than 300,000 survivors still face severe trauma, HIV infection through rape, and loss of land and property.

The UN General Assembly has passed resolutions calling for UN agencies to provide help, "yet such calls have largely gone unheeded," he said.

"In fact, there is no framework for reparative justice for survivors of the genocide, either in Rwanda or internationally," he pointed out.

According to one report, Russell compared UN aid for survivors' in Rwanda of less than $1 million with the $1 billion spent by the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) - more than $30 million per conviction.

SURF and seven survivor-led organisations in Rwanda focus on reparations and the establishment of an International Trust Fund to support survivors. An International Organization of Migration report on its feasibility, commissioned by the ICTR, is expected this year.

"The 20th anniversary of the genocide and the closure of the ICTR ... is a unique opportunity to address the issue of reparation and call for an explicit form of reparative justice for survivors to be prioritised through funding from agencies, funds and programmes of the United Nations, or through voluntary contributions from Governments and the international community," says Russell.

The Genocide in Rwanda began in April 1994 and was executed by the ethnic Hutu majority.

Then U.S. President Bill Clinton, who is a close ally of Rwandan President Paul Kagame and then-UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, have in the past issued apologies for failing to stop it.

In the lead up to the main events on April 7 in Kigali, a symbolic fire traversed the country and lit up several flames to mark the Kwibuka ceremony of remembrance. It happens every year to commemorate the genocide and citizens to personally reflect on its horror, examine its causes, and hopefully, say "never again". But as it is marked for the 20th time, the out-pouring of support has been remarkable.

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