Mourners Overcome With Anguish as Rwanda Marks 20 Years Since Genocide

Ban ki-Moon acknowledges UN's failure to stop killings: 'The shame still clings, a generation after the events.'

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Traumatized audience member is helped by paramedics at ceremony marking 20 years since Rwandan genocide, April 7, 2014. Yet the world remains silent.
Traumatized audience member is helped by paramedics at ceremony marking 20 years since Rwandan genocide, April 7, 2014. Yet the world remains silent.Credit: AFP

The ceremony on Monday marking the 20th anniversary of Rwanda's genocide was rent with screams and fits of hysteria from the stadium audience, as speeches and dramatizations brought back traumatic memories of those 100 days of slaughter.

The BBC reported that paramedics moved through the stands of Amahoro Stadium in the capital Kigali, comforting or escorting out those who were emotionally overcome.

Upwards of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by Hutu extremists in the genocide.

In Rwanda, the United Nations is routinely blamed for the killings because it failed to stop them. In his address to the crowd, UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon largely went along with this view of events.

"Many United Nations personnel and others showed remarkable bravery. But we could have done much more. We should have done much more," Ban said. "In Rwanda, troops were withdrawn when they were most needed. The shame still clings, a generation after the events."

President Paul Kagame, leader of the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front that ended the genocide with a military takeover of the country, and that has enforced its domination of Rwanda ever since, said, "Today we have a reason to celebrate the normal moments of life, that are easy for others to take for granted. If the genocide reveals humanity's shocking capacity for human cruelty, Rwanda's choices show its capacity for renewal."

Kagame, who has ruled the country officially or unofficially for the last 20 years, has turned the week of commemoration partly into a showcase of Rwanda's economic growth and stability since the genocide. What goes unmentioned is his government's violent crushing of dissent; during the campaign for the 2010 election, which Kagame won with 93 percent of the vote, Amnesty International reported that "in recent months, killings, arrests and the closure of newspapers and broadcasters has reinforced a climate of fear."

The glorification of Kagame and his party runs throughout the country's media, and could be seen in Monday's ceremony as well. During an enactment of the story of the genocide, "colonialists" troop onto the stage, exchang their straw hats for blue UN helmets, then abandon those in danger as the bloodbath ensues. The saviors are Rwandan Patriotic Front soldiers, led 20 years ago by Kagame, who arrive to rescue the survivors.

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