TOPICS > Politics

Promoting Peace in Rwanda

March 25, 1998 at 12:00 AM EDT


CHARLES KRAUSE: The President and First Lady arrived in the Rwandan capital of Kigali this morning, the third stop of their 11-day Africa tour. For security reasons the President could go no further than the airport where he was welcomed by Rwanda’s President Pasteur Bizimungu.

During his three-hour stop in Rwanda, the President apologized for the international community’s failure to stop the genocide that occurred in that country four years ago. In 1994, Rwandan Hutus killed more than half a million Tutsis, as well as Hutu moderates during a series of tribal and political massacres.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: It may seem strange to you here, especially the many of you who lost members of your family, but all over the world there were people like me sitting in offices, day after day after day, who did not fully appreciate the depth and the speed with which you were being engulfed by this unimaginable terror.

The international community, together with nations in Africa, must bear its share of responsibility for this tragedy as well. We did not act quickly enough after the killing began. We should not have allowed the refugee camps to become safe haven for the killers. (Applause) We did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name: genocide. (Applause) We cannot change the past. But we can and must do everything in our power to help you build a future without fear and full of hope.

CHARLES KRAUSE: Toward that end, Mr. Clinton announced that the U.S. would become the first contributor to a survivors fund, promising $2 million this year. The President also promised another $30 million to strengthen courts and the justice systems in Rwanda, Burundi, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mr. Clinton also urged that trials of Rwandans accused of genocide be expedited. The President returned to Uganda this afternoon to attend a summit meeting with leaders from East Africa and the Great Lakes nations of Central Africa.

At the meeting the President and the seven African leaders signed a declaration condemning acts of genocide and promising to deny support and safe havens to extremist groups.

PRESIDENT CLINTON: Here today–and this is very important–we have pledged to find new ways to work together to solve conflicts before they explode into crises and to act to stop them more quickly when they do.