Rwanda marks 30 years of 1994 genocide that claimed over 800,000 lives


RWANDA – Rwandans are marking 30 years since a genocide orchestrated by armed Hutu tore apart their country, as neighbours turned on each other in one of the bloodiest massacres of the 20th century.

President Paul Kagame led the commemoration on Sunday by placing wreaths on the mass graves in the capital, Kigali, flanked by foreign dignitaries, including the leaders of South Africa and Ethiopia.

This included former United States President, Bill Clinton, who had called the genocide the biggest failure of his administration.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Kigali, said 30 years after the mass killings, the pain was still evident among many Rwandans.

“But they also feel that it is every Rwandan’s responsibility to commemorate the genocide, to remember what happened and to ensure that it will never happen again,” she said.

The international community’s failure to intervene has been a cause of lingering shame, with French President Emmanuel Macron expected to release a message on Sunday saying that France and its Western and African allies “could have stopped” the bloodshed but lacked the will to do so.

Sunday’s events marked the start of a week of national mourning, with Rwanda effectively coming to a standstill and national flags flown at half-mast.

In keeping with tradition, Kagame also lighted a remembrance flame at the Kigali Genocide Memorial, where more than 250,000 victims are believed to be buried.

He was also expected to deliver a speech later in the day.

He was accompanied by the first lady, Jeannette Kagame.

Music will not be allowed in public places or on the radio, while sports events and movies are banned from TV broadcasts unless connected to what has been dubbed “Kwibuka (Remembrance) 30.”

The killing spree, which began on April 7, 1994, lasted 100 days before the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) rebel militia took Kigali in July of the year, and saw some 800,000 people dead, largely Tutsis but also moderate Hutus.

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