KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Marking the 10-year anniversary of
the Rwandan genocide, President Paul Kagame lashed out at the
international community yesterday for failing to stop the
slaughter, and pledged that if another genocide should happen,
Rwanda would be the first to send troops to stop it.
While he acknowledged that the Rwandan people were ultimately
responsible for the massacres that claimed more than 500,000 lives
in 100 days in 1994, he said world powers refused to do anything to
stop the killing, which eventually ended when his rebel forces
seized control of the country.
He said Rwanda would never stand by and allow widespread
slaughter to take place unchecked.
“God forbid, but if a similar situation was to occur
anywhere else … we will be available to come and fight to
protect those who will be targeted,” Kagame told a crowd of
thousands at a stadium in Kigali, the country’s capital.
Rwanda will act because “the last 10 years have shaped us
differently and have given us the spirit to be able to stand up and
fight … in defense of others who are targeted in a
genocide,” Kagame said.
The central African country fell quiet at noon yesterday as the
country observed three minutes of silence in tribute to those
hacked to death by their neighbors or shot by the army and Hutu
militias following orders of the extremist Hutu government then in
As the ceremonies continued, people in the stands broke into
tears. Others started screaming hysterically and had to be carried
off into white tents set up by the Red Cross. Members of the
national choir wept as they sang.
When the 100-day slaughter began, the U.N. had 2,519
peacekeepers in Rwanda. The most heavily armed U.N. contingent was
a 450-member Belgian battalion, but Brussels withdrew days after
Hutus killed 10 Belgian soldiers on April 7, 1994.
Other U.N. troops were busy “tanning at the pool” in
neighboring Uganda and monitoring its border to ensure that weapons
did not reach Kagame’s rebels, who were fighting to end the
slaughter, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said during the
ceremony. U.N. troops at the time had been withdrawn from Rwanda
and were staying at hotels in Uganda.
South African President Thabo Mbeki criticized the United
Nations for abandoning Rwanda “as Africans were exterminated
like pernicious vermin.”
But Kagame was the most critical of the international
“All these powerful nations regarded 1 million lives as
valueless, as another statistic and could be dispensed with,”
Kagame said, referring to all of the people killed in Rwanda
between 1990 and the end of the genocide in 1994.
Earlier, genocide survivors gathered on a hillside to bury the
remains of hundreds of victims recovered from pit-latrines and mass
graves, marking the beginning of a week of mourning.