Kagame blames the world’s inaction as Rwanda commemorates the 1994 genocide

Rwandan President Paul Kagame blamed the inaction of the international community for allowing the 1994 genocide to happen as Rwandans on Sunday commemorated 30 years since an estimated 800,000 people were killed by government-backed extremists.

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. He has been praised by many for bringing relative stability but vilified by others for his intolerance of dissent.

Kagame led somber commemoration events in the capital, Kigali. Foreign visitors included a delegation led by Bill Clinton, the U.S. president during the genocide, and Israeli President Isaac Herzog.

The killings were ignited when a plane carrying then-President Juvénal Habyarimana, a Hutu, was shot down over Kigali. The Tutsis were blamed for downing the plane and killing the president. and became targets in massacres led by Hutu extremists that lasted over 100 days. Some moderate Hutus who tried 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 prerecorded video ahead of Sunday’s ceremonies, said that France and its allies could have stopped the genocide but lacked the will to do so. Macron’s declaration 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 the slaughter.

FILE – Refugees who fled the genocide in Rwanda carry water containers back to their huts at a refugee camp in Tanzania on May 17, 1994. French President Emmanuel Macron reportedly will say on April 7, 2024, that the genocide could have been stopped by France and its allies.

Macron believes France, allies ‘could have stopped’ 1994 Rwanda genocide

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

He also shared the story of a cousin whose family he tried to save with the help of U.N. peacekeepers. She did not 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,” U.S. President Joe Biden said in a statement.

Rwanda’s ethnic composition remains largely unchanged since 1994, with a Hutu majority. The Tutsis account for 14% and the Twa just 1% of Rwanda’s 14 million people. Kagame’s Tutsi-dominated government has outlawed any form of organization along ethnic lines, as part of efforts to build a uniform Rwandan identity.

National ID cards no longer identify citizens by ethnic group, and authorities imposed a tough 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 the government’s policies.

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 allegations as an attempt to rewrite history. Kagame has previously said that his forces showed restraint in the face of 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 such as those now in place.

Kagame, who grew up a refugee in neighboring Uganda, has been Rwanda’s de facto ruler, first as vice president from 1994 to 2000, then as acting president. He was voted into office in 2003 and has since been reelected multiple times. A candidate for elections set for July, he won the last election with nearly 99% of the vote. -VOANEWS

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