Remembering Rwanda: Ten Years After the Genocide

The National Council of Churches USA announced that it would mark the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide with an April 23 event in Los Angeles, April 3, 2004. The event, entitled, “Remembering Rwanda ?Ten Years After the Genocide?is being held as part of the World Council of Churches Decade to Overcome Violence (DOV) and an international initiative called “Remembering Rwanda 1994-2004?to observe the massive genocide which claimed the lives of more than 800,000.

The keynote speaker for the free event, which will be held publically at the Fowler Museum’s Lenart Auditorium on the campus of the University of California at Los Angeles at 7 p.m., is Samantha Power, who won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for her book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide. Ms. Power, a leading authority in Genocide, has dedicated much of her time to analyze the genocides of the 20th century and the responses of the US to these massive killings.

"It is daunting to acknowledge, but this country's consistent policy of nonintervention in the face of genocide offers sad testimony not to a broken American political system but to one that is ruthlessly effective. The system, as it stands now, is working. No U.S. president has ever made genocide prevention a priority, and no U.S. president has ever suffered politically for his indifference to its occurrence. It is thus no coincidence that genocide rages on,?she wrote in her book.

Other keynote speakers are: the Rev. Dr. Robert W. Edgar, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches; Dr. Richard Hrair Dekmejian, Professor of Political Science at the University of Southern California and an expert on the history of the Armenian Genocide, and Rabbi Allen I. Freehling, Executive Director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations Commission. The program also will include testimonies by Rwandan Genocide survivors.

According to a census carried out by Rwanda’s Ministry of Youth, Culture and Sports, an estimated 937,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutus died during the 1994 genocide,.

"These are the people who died during the 100 days [April-June 1994] of mayhem and who we were able to find out their names, age and their places of birth," Robert Bayigamba, of the Rwanda’s Ministry for Youth, said at a news conference in the capital, Kigali.

Bayigama said the death toll could rise when the Gacaca justice system becomes fully operational as many perpetrators of the genocide were expected to testify about the people they killed. The Gacaca trials, based on traditional communal justice, are expected to begin later this year.

"We shall come up with the exact figure after the Gacaca courts complete their work," he said.

The church has been a location for frequent killings during the genocide. Some 5,000 were killed inside the Queen of the Apostles church in Kigali; Rwanda is now turning the church into a $2.5 million genocide museum in time to host the memorial ceremonies at the beginning of April.

Rwandan genocide survivor Virginie Mukazi (L) wipes her eyes recalling memories while she holds pictures of her slain relatives, in Kigali April 3, 2004. Rwanda marks the tenth anniversary of its genocide on April 7, in which some 800,000 Rwandans died. REUTERS/Radu Sigheti

Pauline J. Chang