United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says that 20 years on, the world body still feels ashamed that it did not prevent Rwanda’s genocide.
He was speaking at a ceremony in Kigali marking the start of a week of national mourning for the at least 800,000 people killed over a period of three months..
Commemorations unfolded against the backdrop of a diplomatic row with France, accused by Rwandan President Paul Kagame of playing a direct role in the bloodbath.
Addressing a crowd of thousands, Kagame said: “The people who planned and carried out the genocide were Rwandans but the history and root causes go beyond this beautiful country. This is why Rwandans continue to seek the most complete explanation possible for what happened.”
The shooting down of the plane carrying Rwanda’s Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana in April 1994 triggered the genocide.
Hutu extremists turned on Tutsis who they systematically slaughtered along with moderate Hutus.
Hundreds of thousands of Rwandans fled to neighbouring countries.
Amid the row France, Rwanda’s main Western backer before the genocide, did not send a minister to the ceremony. Its ambassador was due to attend but Rwanda withdrew his accreditation.
Kagame, a rebel leader whose government came to power after the genocide, had previously accused France of training and arming the Hutu militias who were the main force behind the slaughter – an accusation Paris has always denied.
In a recent interview, he appeared to go one step further and was quoted as saying that France participated in the “actual execution” of the genocide.