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Rocky View Publishing assistant editor reflects on tragic Rwandan anniversary

By: Sara Wilson

  |  Posted: Thursday, Apr 10, 2014 11:43 am

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Twenty years ago the world watched as more than 800,000 people died in 100 days.

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide where hatred and fear gripped the nation for three months.

The Rwandan Genocide was a mass slaughter of Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority.

During the approximate 100-day period from April 7, 1994 to mid-July 1994, as much as 20 per cent of the country’s total population and 70 per cent of the Tutsi then living in Rwanda were killed. The genocide was initiated by members of the political elite known as the Akazu.

The anniversary not only marks the change and growth of its people and shows the tremendous courage and strength it took to rebuild, but shows that those scars are still visible.

One media outlet lead with a story titled “He used a machete to cut off her hand. In today’s Rwanda, they can be friends.”

Demonstrations and ceremonies of remembrance were held throughout the county on April 7 including one on Parliament Hill in Ottawa where more than 200 people took part. Images showed men and women of all backgrounds remembering those lost.

The anniversary also showcases the dangers of the “every man for themselves” mentality.

The world was forced to admit it turned its back and watched as hundreds of thousands of innocent people died.

The United Nations reflected on the anniversary and issued a statement honouring the lives of the fallen and identifying fatal mistakes that led to the genocide.

“The world was stunned by the scale and ferocity of the violence.

“But that same world fell woefully short in helping to stem the killings and in heeding the clear warning signs that were visible for months as tensions rose, deadly plans were hatched and guns and machetes were distributed.

“The numbers still shock: an average of 10,000 deaths per day, day after day, for 100 days, Rwandans killing Rwandans.

“We honour their lives through remembrance and reflection, but also through doing everything that we can to improve protection, response, and safeguarding populations from genocide and other atrocities.

“As a matter of policy, we are committed to staying on the ground in times of trouble – and never abandoning staff when lives are threatened. We stick together – we stay together. That is our pledge to Rwanda and the world.”

We are all in this together – global citizens each with a responsibility to not only your immediate neighbour but to our global ones as well.

“Never again” needs to be the biggest message taken away from one of mankind’s darkest moments for the continued growth of our global community.

Canadian Senator and Lieutenant-General Romeo Dallaire’s piercing story resonates deep and showcased the fatal flaws of many nations during that time.

His story – best captured in the documentary Shake Hands With the Devil – is a heart-breaking story of one man, a warning and an unanswered call.

If you haven’t watched the film or read Dallaire’s book by the same title, it is a must read, but I warn you, it is gut-wrenching.

Education remains the greatest weapon and strength we have as human beings, to learn from the catastrophic events and, hopefully, move us toward a time where the word “genocide” has no meaning, where nearly a million people aren’t dead in the streets and freedom is available to all in all forms.

Those brave enough to rebuild Rwanda and to provide a glimpse of what it was like to live in Rwanda during those days, you are one of our global community’s strongest members, and I for one will “never forget.”


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