Arusha, 8 April, 2009 (FH) - World eminent personalities such as the US President, Barack Obama, and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, Tuesday paid tribute to the victims of the 1994 genocide against mainly ethnic Tutsis in Rwanda.

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Obama in his message to Rwanda's President Paul Kagame said that the tragedy in 1994 was so enormous, so daunting, that it ran the risk of becoming a statistic.

"We must remember that each of the 800,000 individuals who died in 1994 had their own story, their own family, and their own dreams."

The US President, however, praised the Rwandan courageous men and women who survived the genocide and have since demonstrated remarkable strength and generosity in forgiving those who committed these heinous acts. "These individuals inspire us daily by working to restore trust and rebuild hope in Rwanda, ‘' he underscored.

He added that by remembering these events deepened the world's commitment to act when faced with genocide and to work with partners around the world to prevent future atrocities.

The UN Secretary General said: "Preventing genocide is a collective responsibility...only by meeting this challenge can we match the resolve of the survivors and truly honour the memory of those who died in Rwanda 15 years ago."

The resounding voices of survivors, he said, touched everybody in ways that no other words could. "Yet the silence of the more 800,000 innocent victims still haunts our collective conscience," he stated in his statement from the UN headquarters in New York.

The French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, also joined the global community in marking the genocide commemoration.

"We owe to victims to prosecute and punish the perpetrators," Kouchner said in his brief press communiqué.

Rwanda has persistently accused France of harbouring suspects of the genocide and allegedly supported elements of negationists, who are opposing that genocide occurred in Rwanda.

Tanzania's Minister for Information and Culture, George Mkuchika, who represented Tanzania at the commemoration in Kigali, said Rwanda genocide was a sad lesson in the chapters of African history.

He said:" Let us remember what happened here and learn from the errors that allowed this to take place. We as Africans have to do our best we can to maintain peace."

Tanzania hosts the UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) in Arusha, which is trying key suspects of 100-day slaughter.

The April-July genocide, according to UN estimates, claimed lives of about 800,000 innocent people.


© Hirondelle News Agency