On this year’s observance of the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, let us reflect on the genocide as seen through the eyes of Rwandans themselves.
A man who hid hundreds of people from their would-be assassins. A killer still haunted by his crime. A woman who tried to take her own life after her husband and three sons were murdered. Where are these people now?
The United Nations has documented their stories through a project organized by the Department of Public Information called “Visions of Rwanda: Images of Survival, Reconciliation, Forgiveness and Hope” (http://www.un.org/preventgenocide/rwanda/visions.shtml).
The hero who saved so many lives received an award for his courage. The killer haunted by his crime begged the surviving victim for forgiveness. That victim — the woman who tried to take her own life — accepted his plea, finding healing in the process.
These poignant accounts and many others like them depict a country on a path toward reconciliation. The resounding voices of survivors touch us in ways that no other words could. Yet the silence of the more than 800,000 innocent victims still haunts our collective conscience.
The United Nations continues its vital work to avert future tragedies. We have intensified our focus on conflict prevention, and built up our mediation capacity. We are doing more to protect civilians caught in conflict. The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda and other international courts are sending a strong signal that the world will not tolerate impunity for gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. My Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide monitors the world for signs of potential problems. And the “responsibility to protect” doctrine is bolstering UN prevention, protection, response and rebuilding mechanisms.
Preventing genocide is a collective responsibility. Only by meeting this challenge can we match the resolve of the survivors and truly honour the memory of those who died in Rwanda 15 years ago.