In Rwanda, Ban Ki-moon says world must protect civilians from genocide

Secretary-General visits Village of Hope Community in Rwanda. (File photo)

29 January 2008 – United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited a Genocide Memorial in Rwanda today and told the country's Parliament that he will make good on international promises to protect civilians from mass atrocities.

Mr. Ban also pledged $10,000 from his personal resources to a fund set up by the Government to assist the survivors of the genocide, and help in the education of hundreds of orphans.

“Today, one of my priorities as Secretary-General is to translate the concept of our Responsibility to Protect from words to deeds, to ensure timely action so that populations do not face genocide, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity ever again,” Mr. Ban told the Parliament.

Often referred to as R2P, the Responsibility to Protect doctrine was adopted by national leaders meeting at a UN summit in 2005 and holds that States must protect their own populations – and the international community must step in if they do not.

“It is imperative that we all work closely together to address the root causes of conflicts to ensure that the atrocities that took place here 14 years ago do not occur again, anywhere in the world,” the Secretary-General said today.

He paid tribute to the “courage and determination of the Rwandan people” for moving from successful recovery towards long-term sustainable development.

But Mr. Ban also acknowledged the “daunting challenges” that Rwanda still faces. Among these he cited in particular sexual and gender-based violence, urging Parliament to quickly adopt legislation designed to end impunity and extend support to survivors.

“Rwanda owes its remarkable recovery to the strength and dignity of its people. As you move forward along the path of peace, development and democratic governance, you will have the sustained support and partnership of the entire United Nations family,” Mr. Ban said.

Speaking at the Genocide Memorial, Mr. Ban honoured the more than 800,000 people who lost their lives in 1994. The killing of Tutsis and moderate Hutus, mostly by machete or club, swept Rwanda in less than 100 days starting in early April of that year.

“This genocide here will haunt the United Nations, and the international community, for generations to come,” said Mr. Ban.

“This memorial was built so all of us may learn and remember the worst that humankind can do. Let us resolve to build a global architecture to uphold the best humankind can do. I will do all I can to advance that mission,” he pledged.


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