International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda

The International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, observed on April 7, 2017 marks the twenty-third anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, which began on the same date in 1994. The atrocity, characterized by the systematic murder of over 800,000 Rwandans – the vast majority of which belonged to the Tutsi community – ignited following the assassination of the sitting President, Juvénal Habyarimana. The violence would continue for approximately three months and claim the lives of 70% of the Rwandan Tutsi community as well as over 20% of the overall Rwandan population.

The annual International Day of Reflection, adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 23, 2003 (A/RES/58/234), offers the world a chance to publicly remember the enormous number of lives lost to the violence that took place. The date also serves as an opportunity for the international community to reaffirm its commitment to initiatives working to prevent all future atrocities.

Speaking on the occasion of last year’s observance of the International Day, Ban Ki-moon, the former Secretary General of the United Nations, remarked:

Honouring the victims of the genocide in Rwanda also means working for justice and accountability. I commend United Nations Member States in the region and beyond for their continued efforts to arrest and hand over remaining fugitives and end impunity. The best way to ensure that genocide and other egregious violations of human rights and international law can never occur again is to acknowledge shared responsibility and commit to shared action to protect those at risk.

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.

In remembering the atrocities that occurred in 1994, the Auschwitz Institute acknowledges and commends the progress that has been made both by Rwandans and by the international community towards the construction of a global society that prevents genocide and mass atrocities. Efforts aimed at ending impunity and highlighting the importance of truth, memory, and justice are essential tools in the fight against the recurrence of these events. As such, AIPR would also like to take the opportunity to reiterate the need for continued efforts for prevention around the world that take into account the lessons learned from the tragic violence in Rwanda and other genocidal events of our recent past.

Dr. Ashad Sentongo, Director of AIPR’s Africa Programs, explains:

The persistence of threats and the occurrence of genocide and mass atrocities in many parts of the world suggest that there has not been sufficient learning from experiences, like that of Rwanda, to help inform the development of prevention-sensitive policies and programs to terminate these cycles. This commemoration should, among other things, seek to emphasize the use of countries and communities that have suffered these horrific crimes as spaces for learning that state, religious, traditional and civil society leaders, as well as those making and implementing policy can utilize in order to counter deliberate and malicious genocidal practices.