15 APRIL 2011


"Preventing genocide is a collective and individual responsibility. Rwanda's survivors have made us confront the ugly reality of a preventable tragedy. The only way to truly honour the memory of those who perished in Rwanda seventeen years ago is to ensure such events can never occur again."

That was the message by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the Commemoration of the Genocide in Rwanda on Thursday, 7 April.

A solemn event was organized by the U.N. Department of Public Information (DPI), moderated by Under Secretary General Kiyo Akasaka. A team of the Communications Strategic Division headed by its newly-appointed Director, Deborah Seward and Section Chief Margaret Novicki, ensured an appropriate atmosphere in the interim ECOSOC Chambers, including candles that were lit by the President of the Security Council, Ambassador Nestor Osorio of Colombia, and other speakers, after a moment of silence honouring the victims.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who could not personally attend because of his official travel to Washington, D.C., sent an impressive message drawing on the lessons that should be learned and stressing the determination of the international community to exercise vigilance. Rwanda Permanent Representative Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana, Mali's Ambassador Aboubacar Ibrahim Abani, who chaired the African Group, and the Security Council President made appropriate brief statements denouncing what happened in April 1994 and pledging to jointly work to prevent a similar recurrence.

A most touching testimony by Immaculee Ilibagiza described how she survived the massacres, which took the lives of the rest of her family. A Tutsi, she hid in the tiny bathroom of a Hutu pastor in the same neighbourhood. Although killers searched the place, they miraculously did not find her. After these tragic events, Immaculee was given an interim job at the United Nations, then she devoted her life -- and obvious communication talent -- to draw lessons from the Rwanda Genocide.

"We need one another. We have to love one another and live together in peace. I forgave those who tried to kill me," she said, adding that she visited one of them in prison later and told him I forgave him, but asked why did he wish to take my life. Later the man came looking for her to honestly apologize and pledge to devote his life to neighbourly reconciliation.

There are no good or bad nations, groups or people, she stressed. There are good and bad individuals. We have to determine that we are together on the side of those defending life and its dignity.