It’s been 20 years since the genocide in Rwanda. The lesson for the world is a simple one. Never again. Here, my reflections on the genocide.
Monday marks the 20th anniversary of one of the most violent chapters in human history. The Rwandan genocide saw more than one million people massacred. Carried out by Rwanda’s ethnic Hutu’s — they targeted the country’s minority Tutsi and moderate Hutu’s — using machetes, gasoline, guns and grenades.
Dignitaries from around the world attended a ceremony in Rwanda’s capital, Kigali. Actors performed a play based on the genocide. It had some in the audience were overcome with emotion — and needed to be carried away. Many watching lost their entire families in the genocide. For the United Nations, it was an opportunity to reflect on how the world responded two decades ago. Ban-Ki Moon is the U.N. Secretary General: “Many United Nations personnel and others showed remarkable bravery but we could have done much more, we should have done much more.”
The dark chapter in human history is horrific — but is one many say should not be hidden because it can be a lesson for the rest of the world. We caution you that some of the details and images in this next story are disturbing — and not suitable for all viewers. We spoke with two people at McMaster University Monday. One of them was directly impacted by the genocide.
Beatrice Kansayisa left Rwanda to go study in Cyprus, and just in time. Twenty years ago her parents, brothers, sisters and a neice were slaughtered by Hutu’s: “I lost everybody. I could’ve been killed. I’m lucky. I heard different stories but the majority died with machetes.”
She watched on television. The one hundred day long civil war that eventually killed about one million people in Rwanda. The world did nothing — countries who had the ability to intervene had nothing to gain. But McMaster University professor Bonny Ibhawoh says twenty years after the genocide, Rwanda has had to balance justice and reconciliation. “There wasn’t really an appetite for intervening in this obscure part of Africa. No strategic interest. Rwanda has no oil. The Rwandan government has had to tread that fine line between ensuring justice is done to the victims of the genocide but creating a free world that will move the nation forward that allows for reconciliation and healing.
Beatrice went home three years ago and says it’s a different country now. economically thriving but with tensions still running deep between hutus and tutsis. she says it’s important to commemorate the anniversary of such a horrific event: “It’s a big day for international community to learn what happened and hopefully it can be prevented. That’s why we keep saying never, never again.”
Bonny also mentioned this was one of the most unique genocides in our history. It was neighbour against neighbour, in some cases husbands killed wives. World Vision Canada President Dave Toycen was there and he says nothing prepared him for what he saw when he went to Rwanda to help. Everywhere you looked, thousands of people were in desperate need of help.