27 November 2001


NEW YORK, 26 November (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message of Secretary-General Kofi Annan to "Life after Death: Rebuilding Genocide Survivors’ Lives", the international conference of survivors of holocaust and genocide in Kigali, Rwanda. The message was delivered on his behalf yesterday, 25 November, by Gana Fofang, Resident Representative a.i., United Nations Development Programme (UNDP):

It gives me great pleasure to send greetings to this important international conference. President Kagame, his Government and the people of Rwanda merit our gratitude for hosting this event. IBUKA, the association of survivors’ organizations, should also be recognized for its initiative in making this gathering possible.

Genocide shaped the founding of the United Nations. The men and women who drafted the Charter did so as the world was learning the full horror of the Holocaust perpetrated against Jews and others by the Nazi regime, giving added urgency to the task of building an institution intended not only to preserve world peace, but above all to protect human dignity.

Genocide is a word of our time, too. In the past decade, in Rwanda and the Balkans, we have witnessed mass killings, ethnic cleansing, the systematic use of rape as a weapon of warfare, and other atrocities visited upon men, women and children solely because of the ethnic, religious or national group to which they belonged.

Painfully and belatedly, the international community is trying to do more to prevent and punish genocide and crimes against humanity. Tribunals have been established and are at work, convicting at least some of those whose crimes caused such suffering. The Statute of the International Criminal Court is gaining more of the ratifications it needs to enter into force. At last, the world is seeking an end to the culture of impunity.

Surviving genocide may seem like a contradiction in terms. What can be said to survive if so much -- families, communities –- is irretrievably lost, and if faith itself is undermined by evil? That is the heavy burden facing those who live on to remember and rebuild.

Rwanda has much to show the world about confronting the challenge of recovery. The country is making vigorous efforts to tackle the legacy of the past, demonstrating that it is possible to reach beyond tragedy and rekindle hope.

The enormity of what happened in 1994 makes Rwanda a fitting locale for this conference. Over the next several days, you will be bearing witness, sharing experiences, commemorating the victims and considering ways to bring perpetrators to justice. In this way, while living with your trauma, you will also be transforming it into something else -– something that can help to prevent such crimes from ever occurring again.

The United Nations will continue to be your close partner in this vital effort. Please accept my best wishes for a successful, healing experience.

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