Rwanda remembers genocide horror 25 years on

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Commemorations have begun in Rwanda to mark the 25th anniversary of the genocide that killed about a tenth of the population.

The country will mourn for 100 days, the time it took in 1994 for 800,000 Rwandans to be massacred.

Most were minority Tutsis, killed by ethnic Hutu extremists.

President Paul Kagame, who led the rebel force that ended the genocide, will light a remembrance flame at the memorial in the capital, Kigali.

How will Rwanda remember?

One week of commemoration activities will begin with Kagame lighting the flame at the memorial, where about 250,000 victims are said to be buried.

The 61-year-old president, who has led the country since the end of the genocide, is scheduled to make a speech at the Kigali Convention Centre.

He will then lead a vigil at the Amahoro National Stadium, which was used by United Nations officials to try to protect Tutsis during the killings.

Who is attending?

A number of foreign leaders are expected to be at some of the events. They are mainly African, although Prime Minister Charles Michel will represent the former colonial ruler, Belgium.

French President Emmanuel Macron will not be there. This week he appointed a panel of experts to investigate France’s role in the genocide.

France was a close ally of the Hutu-led government prior to the massacres and has been accused of ignoring warning signs and training the militias who carried out the attacks.

France will be represented by Herve Berville, a Rwandan-born MP.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni will also not be there. He has been accused of backing Rwandan rebels who oppose Kagame.

Carrying the scars

At midday, Rwanda falls silent to remember the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children who lost their lives over 100 days in 1994.

But for survivors, the memories never fade. It might be a quarter of a century but it doesn’t feel like it. They still carry the scars, literally and figuratively, of those days.

They are still forced to explain to their children why they don’t have grandparents or aunts and uncles. They still dream of the horrors they witnessed.

So while today is important to remind the country and the world of what was lost 25 years ago – and the peace that has been achieved in the years since – it is clear that survivors need little reminding.

How did the genocide unfold?

On 6 April 1994, a plane carrying then-President Juvenal Habyarimana – a Hutu – was shot down, killing all on board.

Hutu extremists blamed the Tutsi rebel group, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). It denied the accusation.

In a well-organised campaign of slaughter, militias were given hit lists of Tutsi victims. Many were killed with machetes in acts of appalling brutality.

One of the militias was the ruling party’s youth wing, the Interahamwe, which set up road blocks to find Tutsis, incited hatred via radio broadcasts and carried out house to house searches.