UN Chief urges all to shun hate speech as Rwanda marks 26 yrs after genocide

Rwandan refugees who fled the country during the genocide are pictured returning home in 2005./UN Photo

Rwanda marked 26 years after the genocide that killed more than a million people over a period of 100 days.

In honouring everyone who perished as well as survivors of the carnage against the mostly Tutsi, but also Hutus and others who opposed the massacre, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in his message on the International Day Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, that we “must say no to hate speech and xenophobia, and reject the forces of polarization, nationalism and protectionism”.

The day was marked through virtual observance, where victims and survivors of the genocide were remembered by a renewed commitment to, among other things, identify early warning signs and collectively protect all persons affected by conflicts and crises.

“Only by recognizing that we are all one human family sharing the same planet, will we be able to rise to the many global challenges that confront us – from COVID-19 to climate change”, he spelled out.

Maintaining that those who survived the genocide inspire “reconciliation and restoration”, the UN chief stressed that since that dark chapter, Rwanda has demonstrated how “to rise from the ashes, to heal and to rebuild a stronger, more sustainable society”.

Counter hatred

Upholding that those “unspeakable crimes pierced the conscience of the world”, UN General Assembly President, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said that it was “our collective responsibility” to recommit to protecting civilians and preventing genocide from ever occurring again.

“Early intervention is key, and we must prioritize inclusion by fostering tolerance, combatting hate speech, and promoting intercultural dialogue”, he elaborated.

In memory of the victims, Mr. Mohammad-Bande urged everyone to “counter hatred in all its manifestations” as he saluted the courageous survivors and those who tried to prevent the murders.

Life-long memories

Although 26 years have passed, the Director-General of the UN Office at Geneva, Tatiana Valovaya, pointed out that  “the memories of this tragedy are very much alive”.

“The 1994 genocide in Rwanda has changed the collective psyche of an entire nation and left deep scars and traumas in the lives of the survivors”, she said, noting that generations to come will continue “to endure the unbearable pain created by the loss of family members and friends”.

Although Rwanda has learned from its tragedy, as mass atrocities occur with alarming frequency, she noted, it is obvious that the international community has not.

Around the world, there is a groundswell of xenophobia, racism, antisemitism and intolerance.

Keeping the memory alive and promoting tolerance, human values and peaceful co-existence, would prove that diversity is an asset, not a threat, according to the UN official.

“We owe it to our common future”, she concluded.