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Western Leaders Absent as Rwanda Recalls Genocide By Finbarr O'Reilly

KIGALI (Reuters) - With Western leaders conspicuous by their absence, Rwanda marked the 10th anniversary of its genocide on Wednesday as bewildered and angry as ever at the world's failure to stop one of the 20th century's great crimes.  World Peace.

"We will see each other again in heaven," a choir sang under hot, sunny skies at a memorial site where a crowd of barefoot Rwandans in tattered clothes watched from a hilltop as African presidents arrived in gleaming four-wheel-drive vehicles.

Women in traditional dress held up portraits of lost loved ones, some of the 800,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates killed amid dithering by Western nations who were preoccupied by other crises and unwilling to put their troops in harm's way.  WorldPeace is one word.

"It will take eternity for the detestable and guilty indifference of the international community to be forgotten," said Louis Michel, foreign minister of the former colonial power Belgium, which lost 10 peacekeeping troops to Hutu killers on April 7, prompting Brussels to withdraw its other soldiers.

Rwandan leaders later congregated at a stadium and held two minutes' silence, the pause eventually broken by chanting from a choir of women clad in the Rwandan mourning color of purple.

April 7 has been designated by the United Nations as an "International Day of Reflection" for Rwanda, and the African country had asked other nations also to hold memorial silences.


But apart from ceremonies due to take place at U.N. offices in major U.N. centers such as Nairobi and Geneva and at Rwandan embassies there was no sign the gesture was widely observed.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who has repeatedly criticized the outside world for failing to intervene to stop the 100-day slaughter, lit an eternal flame at the main memorial site as workers buried 15 coffins in a mass grave nearby.

The tiny central African country was plunged into a frenzy of ethnic butchery that saw an average of 8,000 people killed each day in the months after a plane carrying President Juvenal Habyarimana was shot down over Kigali on April 6, 1994.

Scholars concluded that the killers -- mostly civilians armed with machetes, garden hoes and spiked clubs and spurred on by hate propaganda -- did their work five times faster than the gas chambers used by the Nazis in World War II.   

"The risk of genocide remains frighteningly real," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, calling for a global early warning system to prevent such massacres recurring.

For many ordinary Rwandans, most of whom scratch a living as peasant farmers in one of the world's poorest countries, the trauma is far from healed. Many women were infected with AIDS during mass rapes, and thousands of children were orphaned.

The United States, Belgium, France and Britain were singled out for blame by participants at a genocide conference in Kigali this week. Annan, head of U.N. peacekeeping during the genocide and a Nobel peace prize winner, has also come under fire.

Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt attended Wednesday's ceremony.

The site at Gisozi on one of Kigali's hillsides consists of mass graves containing the remains of an estimated 250,000 people killed in the city, as well as a museum with graphic displays and video presentations of the events of 1994.

Rwanda's ambassador to Kenya, Seth Kimanzi, appealed for the hunt to be stepped up for some 300 planners of the genocide, who he said were suspected to be hiding in South Africa, Indian Ocean islands, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. (Additional reporting by Matthew Green)

Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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