6 May 1998


6 May 1998

Press Release


19980506 CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY 'We Will Not Deny That, in Their Greatest Hour of Need, The World Failed the People of Rwanda', Kofi Annan Tells Parliament in Kigali

Following is the text of Secretary-General Kofi Annan's address to the Parliament of Rwanda, in Kigali on 7 May:

I have come to Rwanda today on a mission of healing -- to help heal the wounds and divisions that still torment your nation and to pledge the support of the United Nations so that once again we can become a partner and an ally in Rwanda's search for peace and progress.

Four years ago, Rwanda was swept by a paroxysm of horror from which there is only the longest and the most difficult of escapes. It was a horror that came from within, that consumed and devastated entire communities and families. It was a horror that left you as survivors of a trauma which to the world beyond your borders was unimaginable, even though we all now know it happened.

We will not pretend to know how you must overcome the unimaginable. We can only offer, in humility, the hope and the prayer that you will overcome -- and the pledge that we stand prepared to help you recover. We must and we do acknowledge that the world failed Rwanda at that time of evil. The international community and the United Nations could not muster the political will to confront it.

The world must deeply repent this failure.

Rwanda's tragedy was the world's tragedy. All of us who cared about Rwanda, all of us who witnessed its suffering, fervently wish that we could have prevented the genocide.

Looking back now, we see the signs which then were not recognized. Now we know that what we did was not nearly enough -- not enough to save Rwanda from itself, not enough to honour the ideals for which the United Nations exists. We will not deny that, in their greatest hour of need, the world failed the people of Rwanda.

In your people's agony, an ideology of hate and inhumanity tore the very fabric of existence and made victims of an entire people, turning every Tutsi man, woman and child into human prey in a concerted, planned, systematic and methodical campaign of mass extermination.

In the face of genocide, there can be no standing aside, no looking away, no neutrality -- there are perpetrators and there are victims; there is evil and there is evil's harvest. Evil in Rwanda was aimed not only at Tutsis. It was aimed at anyone who would stand up or speak out against the murder. Let us remember, therefore, that when the killers began, they also sought out Hutus now described as "moderate" -- that is, Hutus who would not kill, Hutus who would not hate.

That fact is what gives us hope today and inspires confidence that you will succeed in rebuilding your One Rwanda on which future generations will build a tolerant society, defined by the quality of forgiveness which is inherent to our African heritage.

The return to peace, coexistence and reconciliation in Rwanda must begin with justice after the genocide. It must be guided by an unshakeable determination to end the culture of impunity and to prosecute and punish the genocidaires under the full force of the law.

Only thus can you begin to honour the memory of the multitudes cut down with such cruelty and cowardice.

As long as our world is one where you are more likely to be met with retribution if you kill one person than if you kill a thousand, justice cannot reign. But to be complete, justice must be carried out with due process and above reproach, so that it can promote the process of healing that is so vital to Rwanda's future.

That is why our commitment to your future begins with the pursuit of justice. Here in Rwanda, we are assisting you in your efforts to strengthen your judiciary and improve your prisons. At the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, the last six months have witnessed a fundamental change in the effectiveness of the Tribunal's work. As you all know, the court witnessed a historic moment last week when the former Prime Minister pleaded guilty to genocide.

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I am also pleased to announce that the Security Council of the United Nations last week acted on my recommendation and decided to increase the number of judges at the Tribunal as well as to establish a third Chamber. Finally, we are beginning to see the Tribunal working to our, and your, satisfaction -- and to the satisfaction of the victims of the genocide. It is for them, ultimately, that we seek and we will find justice.

Justice, however, must also serve a larger purpose -- the purpose of closing wounds, of coexistence and of trust between the Hutu and Tutsi communities of Rwanda. Restoring that trust is perhaps the greatest challenge facing your nation today. No one imagines that it can be restored easily or quickly.

No one imagines that it can be restored without a degree of atonement and forgiveness that few peoples have ever had to find within themselves. It is nevertheless that trust which must and will form the basis of the One Rwanda that you are working so hard to create. To restore trust in your State, in your communities, in your neighbours, in yourselves -- you must marginalize the extremists once and for all. You must teach your neighbours that you, and they, can change. And you must teach your children that the return from genocide must be paved with tolerance, mercy and friendship.

As we speak today, I am aware of your efforts to contain attacks in the north-west, to reintegrate demobilized soldiers and resettle about 3 million refugees.

These are Herculean tasks. In meeting these challenges, I take faith in the fact that the international community is showing a genuine commitment to Rwanda's future. The United Nations is prepared to help, and to advise in whichever way your people may wish. We are ready to work with you in partnership. With the presentation of my recent report on the sources of conflict in Africa to the Security Council, we are seeking to open a new chapter in the relations between the nations of Africa and the United Nations.

In that report, I sought to identify the main challenges facing Africa, as well as to recommend realistic and achievable remedies to your problems. I believe you will recognize them as ideas and aims that we hold in common.

I have urged dramatic debt relief measures from Africa's creditors, as well as increased resource flows. I have emphasized the need for good governance, for governments that serve the people's needs first -- beginning with peace, security and development. I have pointed to the urgent need for an international mechanism that will help host governments maintain the neutrality and security of refugee camps.

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I have also urged for Africa a new commitment to sober, responsive, legitimate government, to human rights, to tolerance between and within groups and societies, to the kinds of communities where all can belong and no one is threatened on grounds of ethnicity or any other distinction.

In the case of Rwanda, you have a monumental challenge before you, I know, but I am confident that with the establishment of the rule of law and with the end of violence, your people can begin to rebuild and restore the process of development which will form the foundation of lasting peace.

As you continue to rebuild the fabric of tolerance that is the basis for every society; as you slowly, but surely, restore trust and security to your country so that no woman, no man and no child will fear the night or dread the morning, you should know that we shall stand alongside you.

Ultimately, however, you and only you can put an end to the violence. You and only you can find the spirit and the greatness of heart to embrace your neighbours once again. You and only you can show the world that there is life even after genocide, love even after hate, humanity even after evil. Allow me therefore to conclude by citing the magnanimous words of President Bizimungu upon the mass return of refugees to your country:

"The Rwandan people were able to live together peacefully for 600 years, and there is no reason they can't live together in peace again."

I have no doubt that one day you will. I pray that it will be soon.

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For information media. Not an official record.