Rwanda began a week of solemn ceremonies on Sunday to commemorate the lives of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus murdered during the Rwandan genocide, a three-month-killing spree that began 25 years ago. President Paul Kagame laid a wreath at the Gisozi genocide memorial site, where over a quarter a million of people are buried, before an afternoon of speeches and song.
In the late afternoon, thousands of people marched from parliament to the national soccer stadium. After they had entered, the lights were extinguished and the dark stadium was lit only by a sea of flickering candles as survivors spoke.
The 100 days of slaughter began on April 6, 1994, after President Juvenal Habyarimana and his counterpart Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi — both Hutus — were killed when their plane was shot down over the Rwandan capital. The Tutsi minority was blamed for downing the plane and the bands of Hutu extremists began slaughtering the Tutsi, with support from the army, police, and militias. As many as 10,000 people were killed daily, with mass graves being detected up till last year. Seventy percent of the minority Tutsi population was wiped out, and over 10 percent of the total Rwandan population dead in one of the deadliest genocides of human history.
The fighting ended in July 1994 when the RPF, led by Kagame, swept in from Uganda and seized control of the country. Kagame, who serves as the nation’s president has won praise for ending the genocide and making advance in economic development and health care. However, his administration is also criticized for being ‘dictatorial’. His critics claim he is intolerant of criticism and his government is repressive.