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Zoellick Remembers Rwanda’s Genocide Ahead of Darfur Visit

Protect Darfur Campaign , 02 Juin 2005

In Rwanda to attend an African economic summit before going on to Darfur, US Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick today visited the Kigali Memorial Centre.

Created by genocide prevention agency the Aegis Trust in conjunction with survivors and the Kigali City Council, the Centre commemorates the million people who died in the genocide in 1994, when Hutu extremists tried to wipe out the Tutsi minority.

Zoellick, who will be going on from here to seek a resolution to the humanitarian crisis and promote political reconciliation in Darfur, was shown around the Centre by Aegis Rwanda Manager Apollon Kabahizi, and laid a wreath at mass graves containing 250,000 victims of the genocide in Kigali.

“This place … I know is a place of both great pain and suffering but also a place of epiphany; because Rwandans have suffered a great deal but it’s very important that you and others … help people to remember, and to learn from that, and to understand how we need to try to stop genocide in the future,” stated the US Deputy Secretary of State.

“Tomorrow I go on to Sudan, which is another area of great tragedy…. I hope from the lessons that we can learn from Rwanda, and the courageous nature of the Rwandan people to rebuild, we can try to help others as well.”

“Before the genocide happened in Rwanda, the UN thought it was making progress through a focus on political reconciliation with talks in Arusha, but in fact it gave more time for the killers to prepare,” says Apollon, who lost most of his family in 1994. “I am conscious Mr Zoellick is struggling with a similar situation in Darfur, to get the right balance between protection of civilians, humanitarian aid, and political reconciliation. He has spoken movingly today of the lessons of Rwanda; for the sake of Darfur, I hope these will inform his efforts there.”

“I am delighted that the US Deputy Secretary of State has visited the Kigali Memorial Centre and acknowledged the importance of its warning for the future,” stated Dr James Smith, Chief Executive of the Aegis Trust, responsible for both the Kigali Memorial Centre and the Protect Darfur Campaign.

“In Darfur, where genocide is happening today, America is the biggest single donor to the aid effort – and Mr Zoellick has acknowledged the need for protection of the camps in tandem with this,” says Dr Smith. “However, security must also be sufficient to allow people to return to their homes to plant crops, or the fourth harvest in a row will be lost. This could precipitate the greatest famine in the region in decades.

“The Rwandans and other nations who have sent troops to Darfur under the African Union (AU) need to be commended for their excellent work. The mission is constrained however because the AU has not extended its mandate to allow the force to neutralise the Janjaweed militia causing the destruction. They may be reticent to do this, but the UN could do them a favour by providing a mandate for peace enforcement under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter.”