International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda

The Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR) marks the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, recalling that Hutu and others who opposed the genocide were also killed. The annual commemorative date takes place on April 7, marking the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, which began on the same date in 1994.

Initially established by the UN General Assembly on December 23, 2004 through A/RES/58/234, a new draft resolution, A/72/L.31, was adopted on January 26, 2018. This resolution recognizes more recent developments such as the results of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and resolutions made by the Security Council (e.g. Resolution 2150). The most recent resolution also serves to officially update the official name of the observance.

The 1994 genocide was characterized by the systematic murder of over 800,000 Rwandans, most of which were members of the Tutsi community. The devastation that would continue for three months would result in the destruction of approximately 70% of the Tutsi community in Rwanda, representing 20% of the country’s total population.

In commemoration of the 2018 International Day of Reflection, UN Secretary General António Guterres remarked:

Twenty-four years ago, more than 800,000 people were systematically killed in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The victims were overwhelmingly Tutsi, but also included moderate Hutu, Twa and others. Today we remember all those who were murdered and reflect on the suffering of the survivors, who have shown that reconciliation is possible, even after a tragedy of such monumental proportions.

Rwanda has learned from its tragedy; so must the international community. States have a fundamental responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. It is imperative that we unite to prevent such atrocities from occurring, and that the international community sends a strong message to perpetrators that they will be held accountable.

On this date, the Auschwitz Institute commemorates the incredible loss of life that took place as a result of the genocide committed in 1994. AIPR commends the progress that has been made, both within Rwanda and by the international community, to honor the victims and their families through the prevention of future atrocities. The Auschwitz Institute also aligns itself with the United Nations General Assembly’s recognition of “the importance of combating impunity for all violations that constitute the crime of genocide” and underscores the importance of measures centered on memory, truth, and justice in efforts to guarantee non-recurrence.

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

Impunity undermines both prevention and rebuilding efforts that follow mass atrocities, and, in many ways, feeds into its recurrence in the face of determined perpetrators. As impunity persists, it also threatens to undo the legal, political, and social achievements made across the globe. Experiences from South Sudan, Syria, and the Central Africa Republic are testimony to this enduring threat.

AIPR promotes comprehensive approaches that combine the roles played by states, civil society, and citizens into programs and projects for prevention that seek to counter impunity. The commemoration of this date should, therefore, bring into focus the ways for societies to achieve and expand local justice and strengthen local mechanisms so that they may become better institutions for atrocity prevention.