In Seoul last week the Embassy of Rwanda marked the 25th anniversary of the genocide against the Tutsi. Ban Ki-moon joins ceremony to honor victims, By Yi Whan-woo

Race, ethnicity, religion, nationality, sex and age do not matter. Any man or woman of conscience has love for mankind, peace and freedom.


About 100 people, including ambassadors and other members of the diplomatic corps in Korea from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe and the Middle East solemnly attended the ceremony at the Far East Broadcasting Company on April 8 to honor the victims of mass slaughter by ethnic Hutu extremists.

Among the distinguished guests were Rwandan Ambassador Emma Isumbingabo and Gabonese Ambassador Carlos Victor Boungou, who is also the dean of the group of African ambassadors, and Claude Murekezi, chairman of the Rwandan Diaspora in Korea.

Rwandan Ambassador Emma Isumbingabo, eighth from left in the front row, poses with former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, seventh from left in the front row, and other VIP guests during a ceremony in Seoul on April 8, to mark the 25th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. / Korea Times photo by Yi Whan-woo

From the Korean side were former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Deputy National Assembly Speaker Lee Ju-young and Deputy Minister for Political Affairs Yoon Soon-gu of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

They observed a moment of silence, listened to speeches by selected speakers and watched a short film titled "Kwibuka 25." The film is named after a term for an annual commemoration of the genocide that killed about 800,000 from April 7 to mid-July 1994.

The ceremony culminated when the ambassadors and other VIPs took to the stage and lit 25 candles, following the commencement of week-long mourning and remembrance of victims that began on April 7 in Kigali, Rwanda.

"We must never forget the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda was perpetrated by evil men with wrong biased and unfounded ideologies whose hatred led to the loss of more than a million innocent lives," Ambassador Isumbingabo said in her speech.

Citing Rwandan President Paul Kagame, she said her country has turned a corner and that "fear and anger have been replaced by the energy and purpose that drives us forward, young and old."

Isumbingabo pointed out Rwanda's economy had grown at an annual average of 8 percent over the past two decades, becoming one of Africa's fastest-growing economies.

She referred to legal protection enjoyed by the masterminds of the genocide who fled to other countries, mostly in Africa, the Americas and Europe. She argued that this was why Kwibuka could be "an opportunity to galvanize all efforts at national, regional, continental and international levels against genocide ideology and collectively fight against all forms and manifestations of genocide denial."

She added, "Rwanda is determined to eradicate genocide denial and combats its sponsors."

In a separate speech, former U.N. Secretary-General Ban said the 1994 genocide left a lesson for the rest of the international community.

"Twenty-five years ago, the U.N. and the international community failed — we failed Tutsis, we failed Rwandans, we failed Africans and we failed humanity," Ban said. "Never again can the international community collectively fail to act as it did in 1994 ... Never again can we neglect to identify the warning signs of mass atrocities."

The Gabonese ambassador underscored the need to celebrate the courage of orphans and other ordinary heroes who survived the genocide and stood up against the call to hatred.

He also underscored a need to preserve the memory of victims of the genocide and to rebuild communities through the unity of the Rwandan people.

"It is the resilience and strong commitment to transcend its history and shape its destiny that constitutes the Rwandan exception," the ambassador said.