Memorial Conference on the Rwanda Genocide

Consider ways to ensure more effective international response in the future. Secretary-General says silence in face of past genocide must be replaced with ‘global clamour’.

The silence that had greeted genocides in the past must be replaced by a global clamour, and a willingness to call what was happening by its true name, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said this morning at the opening of a one-day conference in memory of the genocide in Rwanda 10 years ago.

The Memorial Conference on the Rwanda Genocide, which had started with a minute of silence for the victims, was co-chaired by the Foreign Ministers of Rwanda and Canada and moderated by Ruth Iyob, Director of the Africa Programme, International Peace Academy, and David M. Malone, President of the International Peace Academy.

During two panels that followed the opening of the Conference, participants in the event remembered the 1994 tragedy and considered means to ensure a more effective international response to genocide in the future.  The Conference attracted representatives of governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, academics and members of the Rwandan Diaspora.

The international community had failed Rwanda, the Secretary-General stated.  If it had acted promptly, it could have stopped most of the killing.  But neither the political will nor the troops had been there.  If the United Nations, government officials and the international media had paid more attention to the gathering signs of disaster, it might have been averted.

The Rwandan genocide raised questions that affected all humankind, including fundamental questions about the authority of the Security Council and the effectiveness of United Nations peacekeeping, Mr. Annan continued.  If confronted by a new Rwanda today, would the international community respond effectively?  He had suggested a number of measures that would better equip the United Nations and its Member States to meet genocide with resolve, including a special rapporteur on the subject.  More must be done, and he was currently analysing what further steps could be taken.

Secretary-General’s Remarks

The genocide in Rwanda should never, ever have happened. But it did. The international community failed Rwanda, and that must leave us always with a sense of bitter regret and abiding sorrow. If the international community had acted promptly and with determination, it could have stopped most of the killing. But the political will was not there, nor were the troops.

If the United Nations, Government officials, the international media and other observers had paid more attention to the gathering signs of disaster, and taken timely action, it might have been averted. Warnings were missed. I recall a 1993 report by a United Nations special rapporteur that spoke specifically of an impending catastrophe. The international community is guilty of sins of omission.

Secretary-General’s remarks

link to press release…