‘Learn the lessons of Rwanda,’ says UN chief, calling for a future of tolerance, human rights for all

Marking the twenty-third anniversary of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, during which Hutu and others who opposed the genocide were also killed, United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres said the only way to honour the memory of the victims is to ensure such events never happen again.

The 1994 genocide in the East African country saw the systematic murder of more than 800,000 people. The vast majority were Tutsi, but moderate Hutu, Twa and other groups also suffered during the 100 days of violence.

In his message to commemorate the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, Mr. Guterres said: “Preventing genocide and other monstrous crimes is a shared responsibility and a core duty of the United Nations. The world must always be alert to the warning signs of genocide, and act quickly and early against the threat.”

“History is filled with tragic chapters of hatred, inaction and indifference – a cycle that has led to violence, incarceration and death camps,” he added.

However, he warned that “the poison of intolerance” still existed around the world. “Even today, minorities and other groups suffer attacks and exploitation based on who they are.”

The Secretary-General noted that survivors of the genocide continue to face struggles, but praised their resilience and capacity for reconciliation.

VIDEO: Message by Secretary-General António Guterres on the occasion of the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.

He also called on society to “learn the lessons of Rwanda and work together to build a future of dignity, tolerance and human rights for all.”

A candle lighting ceremony and a minute of silence will be observed at UN Headquarters in New York to mark the Day of Reflection. The annual memorial ceremony will be moderated Maher Nasser, Acting Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications and feature a poetry performance by Malaika Uwamahoro, Artist and Rwandan student at Fordham University, as well as remarks by Carl Wilkens, Co-Founder and Director of World Outside My Shoes, Linda Melvern, journalist and author, and Valentine Rugwabiza, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Rwanda to the United Nations.

AUDIO: A young Rwandan poet brings her message of hope “straight from the artist, to the leaders,” at the annual UN event to mark the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda.