Seventeen years ago today, the world watched as an unimaginable slaughter began to unfold in Rwanda. One hundred horrific days later, more than 800,000 innocent people—men, women, and children—lay dead in one of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. Today, we join the Rwandan people in honoring the memory of the loved ones they lost so senselessly, and we reaffirm the lessons of that tragic chapter in history. For just as the Rwandan genocide exposed man’s capacity for evil, it also revealed man’s capacity for good—courageous Rwandans who risked their lives to save friends and neighbors from the massacre. As an international community, we must summon the same courage to ensure that such mass atrocities and genocides never happen again.
Today we also reflect on Rwanda’s progress. Out of the ruins of genocide, Rwandans have welcomed home refugees and former combatants and worked to build a more peaceful, prosperous and democratic society for all it citizens. And as a leading contributor to peacekeeping missions around the world, Rwanda reminds us of our obligations to each other as fellow human beings, and our shared responsibility to prevent attacks on innocent civilians, as the international community is doing today in Libya. As they reflect on this painful day, Rwandans must know that the United States will be their partner in pursuit of the secure and peaceful future that they and their children deserve.