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Africa

'Never again!' German Bundestag recalls Rwandan genocide of 1994

Parliamentarians in Berlin have held a memorial for the victims of the Rwandan genocide, to mark its 20th anniversary. Foreign Minister Steinmeier said the "demons of genocide" still threatened the contemporary world.

Frank-Walter Steinmeier told his colleagues in the Bundestag on Friday that the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide should also serve as a reason to focus on the present and look to the future.

"The sole lesson that must be taken from a day of memorial like today's reads: Never again!" Steinmeier said in Berlin. This was the pledge that all Germans swore after the Holocaust, Steinmeier said, and yet the international community had failed to stand by it in 1994.

More than 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda, and many Hutus, were killed in around three months of violence. The April 6, 1994 assassination of President Jevenal Habyarimana, a Hutu, sparked fierce Hutu reprisals against the minority Tutsi population.

Steinmeier pointed to the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers as the violence began to worsen as an international failure - the special UNAMIR peacekeeping force was reduced from around 2,500 troops to just over 250 in April via UN Resolution 912. This was a response to the deaths of ten UN peacekeepers from Belgium, Rwanda's former colonial power.

Lessons for the present

The Social Democrat foreign minister said that 20 years on, "the demons of genocide" were by no means banished from the world.

Deutschland Bundestag Bundestagsdebatte Ruanda Plenarsaal

The Bundestag voiced 'regret' for the international inaction

"We do not use the word 'genocide' everywhere, but we are standing on the brink of bloodletting without end in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the Central African Republic and in Syria," Steinmeier warned.

The German parties passed a motion that both condemned the genocide and regretted the international community's reaction to it. The paper also urged Rwanda to take further steps towards reconciliation and coming to terms with the past. Rwanda will mark the 20th anniversary of the violence on April 7 at a ceremony in the capital Kigali. Social Democrat Christoph Strässer, the Bundestag's special representative for human rights, will represent Germany.

msh/hc (dpa, epd)