US stands with Rwanda 23 years after genocide

The United States has said it stands with Rwanda as the country kick-started the commemoration of the 1994 genocide late last week.

According to a statement signed by Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, ‘‘The United States remains steadfast in our support for the Rwandan people as they work to overcome this dark period in their history, hold accountable the perpetrators of such heinous acts, and strengthen the fabric of their country in preventing a recurrence.’‘

The statement added that the US joined the people of Rwanda to honour victims of the unfortunate event ‘‘and the family members who each day keep their memories alive and close at heart.’‘

‘‘On this solemn day, the United States stands side-by-side with the Rwandan people in remembrance of the more than 800,000 men, women, and children killed in the 1994 Rwandan genocide. We bow our heads honoring those who suffered.’‘

The 100-day genocide led to the death of an estimated 800,000 Rwandans from the ethnic minority Tutsis. The figure at the time constituted 70 – 80% of the Tutsi population. President Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, led a rebel force (the Rwandan Patriotic Front – RPF) to halt the slaughte.

The attacks were largely believed to have been carried out by the Hutu-led government with support from two local militia groups – Interahamwe and Impuzamugambi. The attacks took place between April 7 and July 15, 1994.

As part of the 23rd anniversary of the genocide, President Paul Kagame was joined by the African Union Commission chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, to lay wreaths and to light a flame at the genocide memorial.

Recently, Pope Francis asked for forgiveness for the “sins and failings of the Church and its members” during Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, saying the violence had “disfigured the face” of the Roman Catholic Church.

The Holy Father was speaking in a meeting with President Paul Kagame at the Vatican. The Pope added that he hoped his apology would help promote peace in Rwanda, which was torn apart by the genocide, and contribute to a “purification of memory”.

The Catholic Church in Rwanda last year publicly sought forgiveness for the part played by some of its members, who it said had fanned the ethnic hatred that led to the killings. Some massacres took place in churches where people who had sought refuge were killed by militias.

The Vatican said in a statement that the Pope had “implored anew God’s forgiveness for the sins and failings of the Church and its members, among whom priests, and religious men and women who succumbed to hatred and violence, betraying their own evangelical mission”.