Rwandan legacy divides charities

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The Independent Online

At least on one point everybody can agree. The horror of the Rwandan genocide, which began seven years ago next month, cannot be overstated.

At least on one point everybody can agree. The horror of the Rwandan genocide, which began seven years ago next month, cannot be overstated.

Around a million people, nearly all Tutsis, died in just two months at the hands of their mostly Hutu killers. But when it comes to remembering the genocide, divisions begin.

In London yesterday there were two separate meetings in connection with the Rwandan anniversary. One was organised by Pax, whose subtitle is "Peace and Reconciliation for the African Great Lakes"; the other was organised by Surf ("Survivors' Fund"), on the occasion of Red Nose Day.

The clash of dates, though unfortunate, appears to have been mere coincidence. In addition, however, the Rwandan embassy made clear that it disapproved of the Pax meeting, which scheduled speakers at odds with the present government.

Both charities are respected for their humanitarian work. But there are two different underlying philosophies. Mary Blewitt, a genocide survivor and one of Surf's organisers, believes it is impossible to stretch a hand out across the political divide, while some still refuse to acknowledge the enormity of the crimes. "I respect people who want to move forward. But for many of us, that is impossible." Accused killers at the war crimes tribunal in Tanzania have shown little penitence.

The organiser of yesterday's Pax meeting, Prudentienne Seward, criticised the reluctance of the present government to talk about crimes committed after the Hutu-led genocide was over. She lost many relatives during the genocide of 1994, but also lost relatives massacred by Tutsi-led government forces afterwards. "Officials don't want to talk about that," she said. "But there should be no difference made between each human life lost."

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