Press Releases

    SG/SM/9197
                                                                                                                            AFR/860
                                                                                                                            16 March 2004

    Tenth Anniversary of Rwanda Genocide Should Prompt Remorse, Resolve Says Secretary-General to Ottawa Symposium

    NEW YORK, 13 March (UN Headquarters) -- Following is Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s message to the Symposium on the Media and the Rwanda Genocide at Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication in Ottawa, 13 March:

    When, on 7 April, people around the world commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, that observance should be filled not only with remorse, but with resolve.

    We must remember the victims -- the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children abandoned to systematic slaughter while the world, which had the capacity to save most of them, failed to save more than a handful, forever sullying the collective conscience.  We must also help the survivors still struggling with the physical and psychological scars.  But most of all, we must pledge -- to ourselves as moral beings and to each other as a human community -- to act boldly, including through military action when no other course will work, to ensure that such a denial of our common humanity is never allowed to happen again.

    The United Nations has now had 10 years to reflect on the bitter knowledge that genocide happened while United Nations peacekeepers were on the ground in Rwanda, and to learn lessons that all humankind should have learned from previous genocides.  We are determined to sound the alarm about emerging crises and to help countries tackle the root causes of their problems.  I expect soon to appoint a United Nations special adviser on the prevention of genocide, and to make other proposals for strengthening our action in this area.

    It is encouraging to know that the news media are also undertaking a process of self-examination as we collectively remember this tragedy.  Media were used in Rwanda to spread hatred, to dehumanize people, and even to guide the genocidaires toward their victims.  Three journalists have even been found guilty of genocide, incitement to genocide, conspiracy and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.  We must find a way to respond to such abuses of power without violating the principles of freedom, which are an indispensable cornerstone of democracy.

    I am glad that you are confronting these and other questions, including the role of the international media, especially at a school where future journalists are being trained.  Such training must include reflection on the responsibilities of their chosen profession.

    There can be no more important issue, and no more binding obligation, than the prevention of genocide.  The world has made some progress in understanding the responsibility to protect.  Yet it is still not clear, were the signs of impending genocide to be seen somewhere today, that the world would mount an effective response.  I hope that all of us, as diplomats, journalists, government officials or just concerned citizens, will act promptly and effectively, each within our sphere of influence, to halt genocide wherever it occurs -- or better still, to make sure there is no “next time”.

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