KIGALI, Rwanda — Displaying pride and pain, Rwandans on Monday marked the 20th anniversary of a devastating 100-day genocide in which packed churches were set on fire and machete-wielding attackers chopped down families from a demonized minority.
Bloodcurdling screams and sorrowful wails resounded throughout a packed sports stadium as world leaders and thousands of Rwandans gathered to hear of healing and hope.
“As we pay tribute to the victims, both the living and those who have passed, we also salute the unbreakable Rwandan spirit in which we owe the survival and renewal of our country,” said President Paul Kagame.
Kagame and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon lit a flame in the Kigali Genocide Memorial Centre, which estimates that more than 1 million Rwandans perished in three months of machete and gunfire attacks mostly aimed at the country's minority Tutsi population by extremist Hutus. Missing from the stadium was the French government, which Rwanda banned. In an interview published in France, Kagame accused the former colonial power of participating in some of the genocidal violence.
The ceremony and Uganda's president highlighted the influence that white colonial masters had in setting the stage for the violence that erupted on April 7, 1994.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni in his speech blamed colonization for many of Africa's violent troubles.
“The people who planned and carried out 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. We do so with humility as a nation that nearly destroyed itself,” Kagame said.
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