The Lessons of Genocide

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Rwanda skulls from the massacre

07.04.2016 – On April 7 1994, more than 800,000 people were systematically murdered in 100 days. Rwanda’s ethnic Hutu militia began a systematic slaughter of both minority Tutsis and any Hutu’s who refused to join in the killing.

The genocide, mostly carried out with machetes, followed the shooting down of the plane carrying then-president Juvenal Habyarimana on 6 April 1994 which ignited longstanding ethnic tensions. An estimated 150,000 to 250,000 women were also raped. The reverberations from this horrific episode are still felt today.

In 2015, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda held its final hearings but despite 90 indictments, some have still escaped justice and a most wanted list has been issued by The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT).

“Genocide is not a single event.  It is a process that takes time and preparation.  History has repeatedly demonstrated that no part of the world is immune.  One of the key warning signs is the spread of hate speech in public discourse and the media that targets particular communities”, said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement, emphasizing the need to learn lessons from Rwanda.

Mr Ban also warns of social division and exclusion, and urges governments to take measures against the toxic incitement of division and the proliferation of hate speech, a cataclysmic factor in the genocide against the Tutsi. “Fighting Genocide Ideology” is the theme of this year’s observance.

The consequences of failing to heed the warning signs were monumentally horrifying, and the collective failure to prevent the Rwandan genocide must not be forgotten. 

The phrase “never again” should never be repeated again.

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UNRICs Related Links

· The Outreach Programme on the Rwanda Genocide and the United Nations

· United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals

Photo: DFID/Tiggy Ridley The photo depicts unburied bones displayed at memorial centres throughout Rwanda.