Ban Ki-moon's speeches


Remarks at the 15th commemoration of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, UN Headquarters, 07 April 2009

Mr. President of the General Assembly, Ambassador Joseph Nsengimana,

Excellencies, Dear family members of genocide victims, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you all for coming to this very solemn ceremony marking the 15th anniversary of genocide. Today we are honored by the presence of survivors of the genocide in Rwanda. Thank you all for joining us.

Nothing I say could come close to the poignancy of your voices, your songs, or the power of your heart-wrenching testimonials, some of which we will hear in a few minutes. Before I begin, I would like to thank Ms. Marie Claudine Mukamabano, for gracing us with such a moving song.

In my lifetime, no other event has put me into such a horrifying scene and experience. A few years ago, even before I became Secretary-General, I visited the Genocide Memorial in Kigali, and when I became the Secretary-General, that was one of the first places I decided to visit. I paid my tribute.

In the memorial book I wrote “never, ever again, in the name of humanity, should we repeat this tragedy”. Words fail to describe what I was thinking. I was crying myself. I couldn't express how horrified, how much sorrow I felt over what I had seen, for all those victims and families. It made me resolve, once again, that as Secretary-General I should do all in my power to prevent such a tragedy in the name of humanity. That is why I have appointed Professor Francis Deng as my Special Adviser on Prevention of Genocide, and I have also appointed Professor Ed Luck as my Special Adviser on Responsibility to Protect. That is a firm demonstration of my philosophy and commitment to do all I can to prevent this type of tragedy.

Dear Friends,

The silence of more than 800,000 innocent victims who have been robbed of their chance to speak still haunts our collective conscience.

But beyond reminding us of the horror, that silence should spur us to action. The United Nations has been moving on many fronts, from securing justice for the victims to preventing future atrocities.

The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda became the first court in history to convict an individual of genocide. That breakthrough did more than put a perpetrator behind bars – it put other would-be genocidaires on notice that their crimes will not go unpunished.

The Genocide Convention and scores of other treaties send an unequivocal message that the international community will not accept impunity for gross violations of international human rights and humanitarian law.

The United Nations is now mandated to protect civilians threatened by the ex-Armed Forces of Rwanda/Interahamwe, including some of the same people who fled Rwanda after orchestrating the genocide there. UN peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are supporting efforts to neutralize the presence of the Interahamwe in the country's east.

At the same time, we are intensifying our mediation efforts worldwide to calm tensions before they escalate into fighting. My Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide is monitoring the world for any signs of a potential genocide, ready to alert the international community so we can move quickly and decisively in response.

Dear Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen

Later this afternoon, we will tour exhibitions commemorating this solemn Day.

One features a young man whose parents were both killed in the genocide. He said it is difficult to express all that he suffered. “My tears are not seen,” he said, “They go inside.”

Today is a day to open our eyes to this suffering and honour the memory of those killed in Rwanda 15 years ago. But for our tribute to be truly meaningful, we must match the resolve of the survivors by renewing our dedication to the causes of justice and peace.

Thank you very much.