UNESCO commemorates the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi


On 9 April 2019, UNESCO marked the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda with a commemoration ceremony, a round table, and two exhibitions at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris. The event was organized in cooperation with the Permanent Delegation of Rwanda to UNESCO on the occasion of the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, which was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 2003. It took place in the presence of UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and the Rwandan Ambassador to France Jacques Kabale.

25 years ago, more than 800,000 Tutsi were systematically murdered in a genocide perpetrated by the Hutu extremist-led government in Rwanda. The genocide lasted just over 100 days, but cost the lives of more than 70% of the Rwandan Tutsi population. Moderate Hutu and others who opposed the killings were also killed during this period.

In her welcome remarks, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay underlined that “the genocide against the Tutsi cannot be of concern for Rwanda alone. Genocide involves all of humanity and that is why the transmission of its history is a collective responsibility.” She further emphasized the role of education in coming to terms with violent pasts and preventing future genocides: “Only education can make people understand the dynamics leading to genocide and help them resist the fatal logics of propaganda,” she said, highlighting UNESCO’s related work in Rwanda, Namibia, Kenya, South Africa, Guatemala, and Cambodia.

The welcome address was followed by a speech by the Rwandan Ambassador to France Jacques Kabale and a moving testimony by Jeanne Allaire, survivor of the 1994 genocide. Samira Ibrahim of France Media Monde led through the evening, which further included musical contributions by Rwandan artists Daniel Ngarukiye and Nirere Shanel, as well as a procession in memory of the victims of the genocide, organized by the Rwandan Embassy to France. A round table on the theme “Memory, research and transmission” with the participation of Florent Piton, historian, Jean-Paul Kimonyo, political scientist, Anita Cyabakanga, Deputy Secretary-General of the association IBUKA France, and Diogène Bideri, of the Rwandan National Commission for the Fight against Genocide, concluded the commemoration. For a short insight in the discussion, please watch this Facebook-live interview with Florent Piton [available in French only].

To mark the occasion, UNESCO displayed two exhibitions, “Upright Men” by Bruce Clarke, and the Shoah Memorial exhibition “Rwanda 1994: The Genocide against the Tutsi” in the UNESCO Foyer.

The commemoration was attended by more than 700 people, including survivors of the genocide and their families, Permanent Delegations to UNESCO, and bilateral Ambassadors to France.

UNESCO organized the event within the framework of its activities on education about the Holocaust and genocide. UNESCO is committed to promote education about genocides as a means to sensitize learners for the causes, dynamics and consequences of such crimes and to strengthen their resilience against all forms of discrimination.