On Monday, as Rwanda marks the 20th anniversary of an orgy of ethnic killing in which at least 800,000 of their countrymen died, Belgium is hosting a conference on preventing mass atrocities.
The genocide was sparked when a plane carrying the then Rwandan president, who was a member of the ethnic Hutu majority, was shot down on April 6, 1994. Everyone on board was killed.
Rwandan Hutus blamed ethnic Tutsis for the attack and seeked immediate revenge.
Hutu extremists killed neighbours, friends and family during a three-month rampage of violence aimed mainly at Tutsis.
The Hutu forces pressured Hutu civilians to use machetes, clubs, blunt objects and other weapons to rape, maim and kill their Tutsi neighbors and destroy or steal their property.
Alice Mukarurinda and Emmanuel Ndayisaba are friends and genocide survivors. They sat side-by-side as they described how he hacked off her arm and killed her baby.
“They found out where I was hiding and Emmanuel cut me in the face and cut off my arm,” said Alice. “One of his friends hit me on the head and I fell down and they pulled away my baby who I was holding. My nine-month-old baby was killed,” she added.
Emmanuel told a similar story from his perspective: “The first person I met was Alice. I cut off her arm, I cut her face and my colleague hit her on the head and she fell down and then he speared her in the shoulder, using a spear. And then one of my colleagues took her child and killed her,” he said.
Thousands of people fled to refugee camps in neighbouring countries which grew into small cities of squalor and disease. Many of them died there from Cholera.
Meanwhile France has pulled out of Monday’s anniversary ceremony after Rwandan President Paul Kagame accused France of training and arming the Hutu militias, the main force behind the slaughter – an accusation Paris has always denied.
French foreign ministry spokesman Romain Nadal said: “These statements are unacceptable, unfounded. We can have a trusted and amicable relationship with Rwanda only once it is based on truth and reconciliation.”
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