A group of eminent personalities has come together to remember Rwanda’s 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi and to encourage people the world over to make their voices heard on the need to prevent such mass atrocities ever happening again.
The group includes former US President Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu, singers Baaba Maal and Angélique Kidjo, actors Jackie Chan, Helen Mirren, Emma Thompson, David Harewood, Susan Sarandon, John Hurt, French model Noémie Lenoir, human rights activist Bianca Jagger, African business leader Strive Masiyiwa, former Chelsea manager Avram Grant, Arsenal footballer Alfred Mugabo and Rwandan beauty queen Aurore Mutesi, amongst others.
Brought together by genocide prevention organization the Aegis Trust, their messages – some recorded, some written – will be released publicly today as part of the ‘Million Voices’ initiative of Kwibuka20, the global framework for events marking the 20th commemoration of the genocide.
Emeritus Archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu said: “Twenty years ago, I was horrified at the slaughter in Rwanda. A million lives lost in just a hundred days. Never again, vowed leaders the world over. So how can it be possible for mass atrocities like those in Sudan and the Central African Republic to take place today? Regrets about the past can only be proven by actions that will prevent genocide ever taking place again. We must never forget the horrors that have gone before, nor must we ignore those that go on today.”
Jackie Chan, Bianca Jagger, ‘Homeland’ actor David Harewood and supermodel Noémie Lenoir are among the stars involved who have taken part alongside ordinary people from around the world in a powerful video, posing questions about how we can allow genocide to continue in a world where lessons should have been learned.
Actor and Academy Award Winner Helen Mirren, said: “We stand side by side with the people of Rwanda to remember the countless victims of this terrible tragedy. Every one of us – no matter our gender, nationality or age – has a responsibility to reflect and learn about the genocide. Together, we remember, together we stand with the people of Rwanda.”
In a short film produced by Aegis for screening in Rwanda’s Amahoro stadium during Monday’s national commemoration, former US President Bill Clinton praises the Rwandan people for their resilience and determination. Clinton said: “By placing your shared humanity above your grievances and differences, you honour the memory of all your fallen countrymen, and you inspire all of us as well.”
Actor and Academy Award winner Susan Sarandon said: “Rwanda has come a long way since 1994 and today the country is showing great courage to deal with its past. Rwandans are mourning together, reflecting and moving forward as a nation. I join them in their journey and urge world leaders to work together to ensure that a tragedy of this magnitude never happens again.”
Established by the Aegis Trust in 2004 at the request of the Rwandan Government and Kigali City Council, the Kigali Genocide Memorial continues to be run by Aegis on behalf of CNLG (Rwanda’s National Commission for the Fight against Genocide) as a place both of remembrance and learning for a new generation. From Tuesday April 8th Global Centre for Humanity, an international institute created by Aegis to take the successful model for peace education developed at the Memorial to countries in crisis today such as the Central African Republic.
Actor and Academy Award winner Emma Thompson said: "Remembering the genocide for me means to share with the younger generations what we know about one of the greatest human tragedies. The significance of this anniversary is real. Over one million fellow human beings were killed as the world stood by and did little to stop it. This is our chance to lend our voices and say “never again”. Next time, we won’t stand on the sideline; next time we will act."
“Twenty years after genocide in Rwanda, it’s time for a global movement against mass atrocities,” says Aegis founder and CEO Dr James Smith. “The responsibility to protect people at risk is not only one for governments, but for all of us as individuals. The Kwibuka20 ‘Million Voices’ initiative is a simple but important starting-point for that. We’re thrilled that so many eminent people have taken part already, and we hope members of the public the world over will join them in doing so during the next 100 days.”