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International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

9 April 2014
International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

Remarks by Mr. Michael Møller
United Nations Under-Secretary-General
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva

International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda

Palais des Nations, Assembly Hall
Wednesday, 9 April 2014 from 17:00 to 18:15

Senator Bizimana
Ambassador Ehouzou
Ms. Mujawayo
Dr. Gakuba
Mr. Krauss
Ladies and Gentlemen:

Thank you for joining us today for this solemn commemoration of the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.

Today, we have welcomed the Kwibuka flame of remembrance to the Palais des Nations and we come together under the overarching theme of Kwibuka – Remember, Unite, Renew. We remember the victims. We unite in our resolve to prevent future tragedies and renew our commitment to supporting the people of Rwanda in their individual and collective healing – and we recognize the remarkable process of reconciliation and renewal that has already taken place.

20 years have passed. But time does not erase the pain of loss. Survivors still struggle with the trauma of what they experienced and with the deep, inescapable void left by family members and friends killed in the tragedy. We are fortunate to have with us today Esther Mujawayo whose story of a family destroyed by the genocide has moved people across the world, and whose outstanding support of fellow survivors has been a lifeline to many. Her spirit encapsulates the resilience of the Rwandan people and their determination to build a community based on the principles of equality and respect.

The international community’s inability to act as the atrocities took place shames us. As the Secretary-General said at the commemoration in Kigali earlier this week, “we should have done much more”.
The scale of the genocide and the speed with which it unfolded still shocks us. But we must recall that genocide does not happen without warning. It begins with acceptance of stereotyping, with a narrative of hatred, and the vilification of all that is different. The denial of the humanity of an entire people starts with the abuse of the fundamental rights of a single human being.

The threat of genocide remains with us. It feeds on ignorance and intolerance. This is why we must strengthen efforts to fight discrimination and prejudice whenever we encounter it. The focus of the entire human rights machinery on prevention is an important development in this regard. The United Nations has also strengthened capacities for fact-finding, preventive diplomacy and peaceful resolution of conflict, which all play a critical role in early warning. We must continue to enhance our ability to detect and to act on the warning signs.

Acknowledging and understanding the past is the first step for shaping a better future. We must all work to ensure that the reality of the genocide is not forgotten and the facts not distorted or taken out of context. Education and awareness-raising is key in this respect and the United Nations Office at Geneva is proud to play an active role in this regard, together with other members of our United Nations family.

Ladies and Gentlemen:

800,000 innocent people lost their lives in the genocide in Rwanda. The number is so large that it is hard to comprehend. But we must never forget that behind the statistics lies the fate of fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters – just like anybody in this room today – people from all walks of life, targeted simply because of who they were. Their stories are unique and each one must be remembered – not as a number but as a human being, worthy of respect and dignity.

Today, we honour their memory. We vow to ensure that their legacy is an international community built on justice and empowerment, protection of rights and respect for all.

We remember. We unite. And we renew.

Thank you very much.