“As they were cutting people, blood was falling on us. I confess that I was so thirsty that when the blood ran into my mouth, I drank it.”; “…my body was struck with sticks and machetes, but I still ran on. I was raped and abused…”; “I heard my parents scream as they were hacked down with machetes and udufuni (small hoes)”; “After killing people for about eight hours, they said they were tired, that they needed something to help them regain their energy. So they picked girls who were still alive and raped them.”; “…no justice can bring back my sanity and life…”. These were few of the testimonies of survivors of the Rwanda Genocide.
In 1994, as the international community watched, more than 800,000 Rwandans, mostly ethnic Tutsi, were massacred by Hutu militia and government forces over a period of just 100 days. To pay tribute to the bravery and resilience of the survivors and help the international community to prevent future tragedies of such nature, the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Lagos, joined other UN offices and peoples around the world to commemorate the 20th year anniversary of the Rwanda genocide.
The observance featured showing of ‘Kwibuka20’ short film; Rwanda Video Timeline, covering from 1884 to today; Video testimonies by survivors (Simeon and Claire); Short video by United Nations Regional Information Centre (UNRIC) featuring a perpetrator and two survivors; as well as transcripts of survivors’ accounts.
It was an emotion-filled hall with graveyard silence, interrupted only by the sound of the video film as tears rolled down the cheeks of some students while others were moved to tears on account of the survivors’ testimonies.
The UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, in his video message acknowledged the inspiration drawn from the ability of the Rwandan people to unite and show that reconciliation is possible even after a monumental tragedy. ‘And we pay tribute to their determination to renew their country and pave the way to a secure and prosperous future’, he added.
Providing the background on the observance especially as related to ending impunity through judicial action, the National Information Officer, Oluseyi Soremekun, disclosed that the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) established through a UN Security Council resolution of November 1994, and which began operating in 1995, had issued a total of 92 indictments, two of which were withdrawn, and 10 of which were referred to national jurisdictions, including two to France and eight to Rwanda. “Two accused died before the completion of their cases. As of March 2014, of the 63 completed cases, 14 accused were acquitted, and 49 were found guilty and convicted.” He continued.
Speaking on the occasion, the Senior Information Officer, UNIC, Lagos, Envera Selimovic, urged the students to embrace one another irrespective of tribe or religion. She added that while remembering the genocide, they should unite and renew friendships across cultures and ethnic groups.
The event was attended by about 200 participants comprising of four schools, representatives of Non-governmental Organisations (NGO) and the media.