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20 Years After Rwandan Genocide, Lighting A Flame Of Hope

The Kwibuka flame, commemorating the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda
The Kwibuka flame, commemorating the genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda
Fulgence Niyonagize

KIGALI — As the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide approaches, a “flame of hope” is being carried across the entire country, a symbol of reconciliation and faith in a better future.

“I want to make sure that everything's in order,” says the president of the Tutsi genocide survivors group in northern Rwanda. “The flame of hope will arrive in our district tomorrow.”

The Kwibuka flame, as it is known, is meant to symbolize the courage of the Rwandese over the past two decades after an estimated 500,000 to 1 million people were slaughtered by the ruling Hutu majority, including up to 70% of the Tutsi minority, in a period of just over three months.

All the fires lit across the country for the 100-day-long commemoration come from this single flame, first lit Jan. 7.

It will return to the Rwandan capital of Kigali on April 7, 20 years after the genocide started, where President Paul Kagame will use it to light another and to mark the beginning of the annual mourning period.

All over the country, the arrival of the torch brings together survivors, former persecutors, and students, who welcome it with enthusiasm. “He who has darkness in his heart always has bad intentions. This flame is a symbol that our hearts are now pure,” explains Moussa Fazir Harelimana, minister of interior security.

This year, the commemoration theme is “Remember, Unite, Renew,” three words that “invite us to think, all together, about the past to better prepare the future,” says an official from survivor association Ibuka.

Protais Mitali, minister of sports and culture, says these ceremonies help prepare the commemoration by harmonizing the debate as well as targeting and carrying out actions that support the survivors. He says it’s also an opportunity for those who deny the genocide to engage in soul-searching and march with others for the development of the country.

In the northern district of Rulindo, Eric Ngarambe, a 24-year-old militiaman at the time of the genocide, explains that he killed Tutsis at the pentecostal church using firearms, grenades, stones and machetes. “Honestly, I shouldn’t be among the living, given the extent of the suffering I have caused,” he says. “To build a nation is not only to receive the forgiveness of the survivors, but also to change and move on in a new direction.”

Jean de Dieu Mucyo, executive secretary of the National Commission For The Fight Against Genocide, says young people should be more involved in the commemoration activities that cover the 100-day period during which the genocide lasted. “It’s up to them to seize its remembrance and preserve it,” he says.

For the Kwibuka 20 commemoration, days of reflection are being organized by the Rwanda embassies in Europe and Africa, and by its mission to the United Nations. “These activities are all aimed at preserving the memory of what happened and counter all forms of denial, revisionism or normalization of the genocide,” explained Jacques Kabale, Rwanda’s ambassador to France, as he launched the commemoration on Jan. 24 in Lyon. “Only justice and remembrance can keep us from seeing history repeat itself.”

The youth, commonly called Rwanda rw’ejo (the Rwanda of tomorrow) are urged to take their future into their own hands. Marcel Mutsindashyaka, who lost both of his parents when he was just five years old, has done just that. He focused his attention on his education, and wound up earning a university degree in technology. He is proud of his achievements, looking back to the darkness of his childhood: “I have come a long way.”

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FOCUS: Israel-Palestine War

Why The U.S. Lost Its Leverage In The Middle East — And May Never Get It Back

In the Israel-Hamas war, Qatar now plays the key role in negotiations, while the United States appears increasingly disengaged. Shifts in the region and beyond require that Washington move quickly or risk ceding influence to China and others for the long term.

Photograph of U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken  shaking hands with sraeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

November 30, 2023, Tel Aviv, Israel: U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken shakes hands with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant.

Chuck Kennedy/U.S State/ZUMA
Sébastien Boussois


PARIS — Upon assuming office in 2008, then-President Barack Obama declared that United States would gradually begin withdrawing from various conflict zones across the globe, initiating a complex process that has had a major impact on the international landscape ever since.

This started with the American departure from Iraq in 2010, and was followed by Donald Trump's presidency, during which the "Make America Great Again" policy redirected attention to America's domestic interests.

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The withdrawal trend resumed under Joe Biden, who ordered the exit of U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2021. To maintain a foothold in all intricate regions to the east, America requires secure and stable partnerships. The recent struggle in addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict demonstrates that Washington increasingly relies on the allied Gulf states for any enduring influence.

Since the collapse of the Camp David Accords in 1999 during Bill Clinton's tenure, Washington has consistently supported Israel without pursuing renewed peace talks that could have led to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

While President Joe Biden's recent challenges in pushing for a Gaza ceasefire met with resistance from an unyielding Benjamin Netanyahu, they also stem from the United States' overall disengagement from the issue over the past two decades. Biden now is seeking to re-engage in the Israel-Palestine matter, yet it is Qatar that is the primary broker for significant negotiations such as the release of hostages in exchange for a ceasefire —a situation the United States lacks the leverage to enforce.

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