From Hate Speech to Genocide, Lessons from 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda

On the International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda, 7 April, UNESCO will hold an online panel discussion from 15:00 to 16:30 CEST, which can be viewed here.

It was on 7 April 1994 that the Hutu extremist-led government in Rwanda launched a systematic attack that within 100 days killed more than 1 million members of the Tutsi minority. The day is both a time to honor the victims and survivors, and to extract from this senseless slaughter the lessons that can still be learned to prevent genocide in the future.

The online event will begin with introductory remarks from UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and Ambassador François Xavier Ngarambe, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Rwanda to UNESCO, to be followed by a conversation between Mr. Freddy Mutanguha, a survivor of the Genocide, and Dr. Tali Nates, Director of the Johannesburg Holocaust and Genocide Centre.

Participants in the panel discussion are:

  • Ms. Susan Benesch (USA), Director of the Dangerous Speech project,
  • Mr. Marcel Kabanda (France), Historian and former President of Ibuka France,
  • Mr. Paul Rutayisire (Rwanda), Historian.

Ambassador Silvia Fernandez de Gurmendi (Argentina), Chair of Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes and former President of the International Criminal Court, will deliver a video message.

Closing remarks will be delivered by Ms. Alice Wairimu Nderitu, United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide. Dr. Stephen Smith, UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education and Executive Director of the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation, will moderate the event.

Hate speech and hate propaganda were identified as catalysts of the genocidal violence in Rwanda. The United Nations Strategy and Plan of Action on Hate Speech (2019) seeks to strengthen the UN response to the global phenomenon of hate speech and placing specific emphasis on the role of education as a tool for addressing and countering hate speech, while at the same time upholding legitimate freedom of expression and access to information.

The commemoration is being organized by UNESCO and the University of Southern California Shoah Foundation UNESCO Chair on Genocide Education, with the Permanent Delegation of Rwanda to UNESCO, in partnership with Global Action Against Mass Atrocity Crimes (GAAMAC).

As the only UN agency with a mandate to promote the prevention of genocide through education, UNESCO is committed to promoting genocide remembrance and education to sensitize learners about the causes, dynamics and consequences of such crimes and to strengthen their resilience against all forms of discrimination.

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